Just as US Polo Association thrives off being confused with Ralph Lauren Polo by well-intentioned suburban moms, whoever is making the sartorial choices for the Iowa State is always hoping you’ll squint and confuse them with the University of Southern California. They’re not. They’re super not.
But don’t count the Cyclones (1-3, 0-2) out just yet. Despite their knockoff uniforms and 0-2 Big XII record, this scrappy team has held its own against strong competition and is only a few bounces away from being The Real Deal. And with that, let’s get this preview started.
Where: Boone-Pickens Stadium - Stillwater, Oklahoma
When: Saturday, October 6, 2:30 P.M. CST
TV: ESPN 2
Radio: Okstate.com or radio list
Get to Know the Iowa State Cyclones (1-3, 0-2):
Oh, what could have been.
It’s been a hard-luck season for the Cyclones, starting with their first week. Coming off an 8-5 season in 2017 which included a bowl win and victories over two top-five teams, excitement for Iowa State football was at a fever pitch. Kicking off the season in front of their home crowd against the ceremonial
lambs Jackrabbits of South Dakota State, the team appeared more than capable of living up to their preseason hype. Quarterback Kyle Kempt, a former walk-on (and knockoff Baker Mayfield who led his team to an upset win over Oklahoma last year) hit receiver Deshaunte Jones for a 55-yard touchdown in the first five minutes of the game, as the Cyclones rushed out to an early 7-0 lead.
It’s been all downhill from there.
Iowa State lost one of their few “gimme” wins of the young season when the game was cancelled due to lightning after a 2 1/2-hour delay and the team has been struggling to get back on track ever since. Kempt injured his ankle the following week, a 13-3 loss to in-state rival Iowa. Sophomore quarterback Zeb Noland has proven himself to be a perfectly cromulent replacement (69 of 108 for 715 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT on the year) but has been unable to lead his team to the same type of upset wins as last year. Iowa State fought hard in a 37-27 loss to Oklahoma and did just enough to get the job done in an uninspiring 26-13 win over Akron. Then, last week, heartbreak struck the Cyclones again.
On the road against the TCU Horned frogs, Iowa State nearly go their season back on track. Hardworking running back David Montgomery (4.1 yards par carry on the season) punched the ball in from one yard out to tie the game at 14 a piece with 8 minutes left. Adding to the excitement, the Cyclones scrappy defense picked off TCU’s up-and-down quarterback Shawn Robinson on the very next drive. It looked as if the Cyclones were minutes away from either taking the game to overtime, or grinding out the win their long-suffering fan base deserved. That is, until Noland was unable to lead his team to a first down, the team punted, and TCU marched down the short field to kick the winning field goal in the final minute.
The Cyclones enter Stillwater facing a three-game gauntlet of No. 25 Oklahoma State, No. 9 West Virginia, and the explosive offense of Texas Tech in back-to-back-to-back weeks. Surely, this is a game coach Matt Campbell knows he has to win in order to have any shot at a return bowl trip.
What to Watch For: Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1):
Can Taylor Cornelius build of his success in the Kansas game against a shockingly-stout Iowa State defense? Some may be surprised to learn that the Cyclones rank No 18 in the nation in Total Defense, having allowed a meager 1333 yards on the season. Matt Campbell’s team also ranks No. 20 in scoring defense, allowing only 20.0 points per game, ahead of teams TCU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. These defensive achievements are no small feats given the offensive capabilities of the Cyclones’ early-season opponents.
Iowa State will almost certainly look to put eight or more players in the box to combat the incredible Justice Hill (577 yards and 6 TDs on the season). Assuming Hill is a marked man, it will be up to Cornelius to move the chains on third downs. Cowboys fans will hope that Corndog continues his rapport with his ample weapons at wide receiver, led by sensational sophomore Tylan Wallace (546 yards, 3 TDs, 18.2 yards per catch). If Cornelius can manage 50% or better on third down conversations, Oklahoma State has the talent to hand the shorthanded Cyclones another painful loss.
Player to Watch: Hakeem Butler
Cowboys fans will remember being haunted by Texas Tech’s tall receiver TJ Vasher. They’ll face another towering wideout in Butler. The sophomore receiver enters the game averaging 19.4 yards per catch. More impressively, he was at his best in the Cyclones’ biggest game so far. Against Oklahoma, Butler reeled in 5 catches for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t really begin to show his dominance in the game, so here’s a video:
The 6’ 6” receiver has the speed to get open, the power to break tackles, and the height to make contested endzone catches. Here’s hoping AJ Green, Jr. can replicate his impressive endzone heroics.
Iowa State defense stays true to form, but the Cornelius does just enough to convert key first down. Oklahoma State 28, Iowa State 21.