Sunday, December 15, 2013

ISU 2013 Football Season in Review

Now that the season is “officially” over, it’s time for a look back.  I’ve heard a lot of excuses – young team, injuries, etc – for the poor year.  Certainly, injuries struck early and often, especially on the offensive line.  And the two starting quarterbacks were a RS Sophomore and RS Freshman.  But many teams suffer injuries, and many freshman quarterbacks perform at a high level.  One just won this year’s Heisman. 
I’m more sympathetic to an argument that the issue was a lack of consistency.  The injuries on the offensive line resulted in 10 different starting fives over the season.  And the young quarterbacks getting substituted in and out would make it difficult for either to find a rhythm.  Unfortunately this has been a hallmark of Paul Rhoads’ tenure at ISU.  Three different starters last year, two this year.  With four total QBs in the mix next year, it might be the same again.  Other positions were handled questionably as well, including running back, where the obvious #1 took at most half the snaps this year. 
If inconsistency is the only constant at Iowa State, why would 3-9 be disappointing, instead of expected?  There’s another trait of Rhoads’ tenure, and that is the ability to compete with everyone, and pull an upset or two a season.  ISU had done very well against teams they were favored to beat (winning 76.9%).  While not a lot of games every year, this was usually good for about three wins per season.  More importantly, ISU had been known for their upsets.  Not always against the #2 team in the country, but they won 35.9% of the games in which they weren’t favored.  This averaged to 3.5 wins per year. You should see where this is going.  Coming into the season, it was reasonable to expect four games favored plus 3 upsets and ISU would be bowling.  
 Now I had ISU only favored in three games, and underdogs in the rest, which put ISU’s expected wins right about six.  Not a lot of wiggle room.  The three games in which they were favored, they really, really needed to win for bowl eligibility.  In 2013 they dropped two of those three.  ISU also had only two upsets - below their average.  So they disappointed both in games they should have won, and by not having the upsets to which we’ve grown accustomed.  If they’d played to their averages in one aspect or the other, the record would have been 4 or 5 wins.  Not bowling, but not so deflating either. 
The good news is, this should be the bottom when it comes to ISU’s performance under Paul Rhoads.  The bad news – ISU needs to win EVERY game in which it is favored AND pick off 3 upsets a year to have a shot at a bowl game.  That’s concerning, and maybe the most disappointing thing about 2013.  The upsets had been adding up, moving the lines toward ISU.  Record numbers of season tickets looked like it would fuel some Jack Magic.  A couple early wins and ISU should have been favored against Tulsa, against TCU at home and at WVU to finish the season. But since everything fell apart, the Cyclones will have to start earning respect all over again in 2014.  It doesn’t take an analysis of next year’s schedule to know that a bowl game will again be a stretch for ISU.

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