1. So going into the year, Sam B. Richardson was the guy. Every ISU fan I knew was extremely happy with him. Then something happened and now it's this guy with the last name Lanning. Can you explain what that thing was?
Sam Richardson will be remembered by history as one of Iowa State's best statistical QBs of all time. If he never throws another pass his career numbers will rank 3rd in passing yards, 2nd in TD passes, 3rd in total offense, 4th in total TDs, etc. etc. He has almost a 2:1 TD/INT ratio, over 1,000 career rushing yards and maintains a high completion percentage. He really is a good QB or was anyway. He was the accurate and efficient breath of fresh air that ISU fans longed for after two seasons of the roller coaster ride named Steele Jantz. Sam had a really nice sophomore season followed by an injury-plagued junior year, but the table seemed set for a big senior year, only it didn't happen.
He is still accurate, but he's not running at all, he's holding the ball way too long and is seemingly over cautious even with one of the best WR corps the Cyclones have had in years. Did the coaches tell him not to run? Maybe, this staff is good at messing up promising QBs. Is it playing too many games against a loaded Big 12 and getting gun-shy from the hits and injuries? Maybe. Whatever it is, it wasn't working this year and everyone knew it.
Joel Lanning is the breath of fresh air ISU fans longed for after the disastrous start (notice the trend?). He'll never match Sam's completion percentage or passing yards, but he's a load to bring down in the running game and makes good decisions while scrambling. Joel's been back and forth, he looked like Superman against Texas and Clark Kent against Oklahoma, he's definitely a work in progress, but he's something Cyclones can get excited about.
2. Mike Warren. What is this guy good or bad at?
Mike Warren is a stud. He's a true freshman that runs with the power and savvy of an upperclassman. And I totally wrote him off. Two games into the season Mike had really done nothing, totaling 28 yards in both outings combined. We have another back by the name of Tyler Brown that looked far better, if more breakable. Then Warren busted out for 126 yards against Toledo and we've never looked back. He doesn't have blazing speed or Barry-esque moves, but he hits even the slightest hole quickly and almost always gains positive yards. He's only 3 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards on the season, averaging nearly six yards a carry. So let's let Mike get more than 3 yards on Saturday eh? He's a really cool dude.
3. How often do ISU fans bring up 2011 in a normal conversation about football?
Typical ISU fan conversations these days start with "Did you see Georges Niang is a Preseason All-American?" or "Iowa ... [expletives] will someone just fucking beat them already?!?" One would think the 2011 victory would have spring-boarded us to greater things.
It has not. In fact, it almost seems to have made us worse - which is hard to do. So no, it doesn't come up much. Although that photo of the field covered in ISU fans with a flag waving after the victory seems to show up a lot, so if nothing else that game gave is a neat meme background.
4. Is Paul safe or is his job in jeopardy?
Sigh ... Paul was hired by AD Jamie Pollard, and thus far it doesn't seem like Jamie fires "his guys". Now Paul is definitely putting that to the test. We recently expanded the stadium to a 61,000+ capacity (third largest in the Big 12 - suck on that oil barons) and shockingly ISU attendance and interest is at an all time high. While other teams struggle to fill stadiums, Jack Trice is routinely sold out or nearly so these days ... but that has to be on thin ice.
Iowa State fans are among the most confusingly loyal fans in the nation, we give ISU our heart and they crush it into a fine powder and blow it back in our face and ask us to do it again. So far we do ... but its tenuous at best.
So to address your actual question, is Paul's job safe? Who knows, if we win 2 more probably, win 1 more maybe, 0 more ... christ, can we just have 1 more?
5. What does ISU need to do to beat this OSU team?
On offense there are two productive ISU plays, ones that involve handing off to Warren and ones that involve passing the ball to super sophomore receiver Allen Lazard. Everything else is a silly attempt to try to trick you that we don't really want to do one of those two things. We need to stop that shit and just accept that we're Team Warren/Lazard.
On defense we have to get some sort of pressure from the D Line. We have an above average defensive backfield, but you can't leave them on an island for 4+ seconds, especially against an offense like OSU. Our linebackers are generally a liability, although Jordan Harris has been doing good things lately. If he can be all-everything on defense like he has been the last couple games ... well, I guess we'll just tread water and wait for OSU to kick it wide right ...
6. What are some things we should know about this team?
I feel like the defense is above average for an Iowa State team of recent memory. Statistically its tough to justify, but comeon, we've played like 5 of the 7 top offenses in college football, and only had a viable offensive attack a couple times - that's a rough life for any defense.
On offense I suppose it's notable that we parted ways with OC Mark Mangino, which has so far seemed like the right move. One can only watch so many seasons heaping full of unsuccessful WR screens before you want to scratch your eyes out. Todd Sturdy is the new OC, though the jury is out on how much of an improvement he is, kicked ass versus Texas anyway, but who hasn't?
7. What's your prediction?
Predicting ISU these days is tough. Also I'm a total homer despite decades of Cyclone disappointment, so I'm not going to predict a loss because that just seems like a terrible thing to do. So here it goes: OSU plays tight under the pressure of avoiding another meltdown, ISU catches some breaks (ha!) and returns a special teams score to force OT. All of ISU's kickers are somehow simultaneously injured during the celebration, so ISU brings in basketballer Naz (3sus) Long to kick a long FG to seal the third OT. Isn't bringing someone out of the stands to play illegal you ask? One would think, but in a Big 12 Refs moment, its allowed to stand.
ISU 38 OSU 35
8. Some say that the ISU win in 2011 was the last chance for the Big 12 to win a national title but obviously it didn't happen and since then, there has been a negative perception. As a Big 12 fan, would you change that and have ISU lose that game? Or would you rather have the biggest win in recent history?\
Iowa State has played football for 123 years.
The highlights of that century and a quarter are as follows: Coached by Pop Warner, 1977 Peach Bowl, Troy Davis, Seneca Wallace, Upsetting #2 Oklahoma State.
I like the Big 12, but there's no fucking way you're taking that away from us. I'll choose our victory over 2011 OSU 10 times out of 10
Is Ames actually that hard to play in or is that just a thing people think since 2011?
I like to think opponents are surprised by the fan support in what is perceived as the Arctic football wasteland of the Big 12. But no, I don't think there is anything that much more difficult about playing here. (Completely contrary to this I totally believe Hilton Magic is real, and I do not apologize for that). I'd like another football win, but I'd also like to see OSU get a shot at football glory too - you guys are our #drinkalliance and when it comes down to it, isn't getting too drunk to feel things what college sports are really about? I like to think so.