The off-season is a long and tiresome trudge, so how can we best get through it? By looking ahead to next year, of course. So, in the spirit of forward thinking, we present a team-by-team look at Iowa's 2010 football opponents (with looks at Illinois and Purdue thrown in for good measure so our Big Televen brethren don't feel ignored). Next up: the Iowa State Cyclones. Do they still suck? Do they ever!
Where the devil do they play?
Legendary historic Soul-crushing Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa, which is not actually the armpit of Iowa -- it's the asshole.
What conference do they call home? The Texas &
Friends Embittered Contractual Partners League, also known in more formal circles as the Big XII.
What did they do last year? Paul Rhoads managed to not only exceed the rock-bottom expectations for Iowa State last year, but to surpass Gene Chizik's career win total at Iowa State -- in a single year. Mind you, that only meant they wound up going 6-6 in the regular season and heading to the Insight Bowl, but after the abject misery of the Chizik Years, you can understand why Cyclone partisans were excited -- particularly after they polished off the season with an Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota (which, to be fair, may not be a huge achievement -- Tim Brewster might simply be unable to beat teams from Iowa; given Minnesota's struggles against FCS teams under Brewster, we'd favor UNI if they played... and, hell, we'd even take Wartburg if you gave us enough points). The highlight of their year was probably the stupefyingly ridiculous win over Nebraska (in which they forced nine turnovers, including four inside their own 5-yard line), a victory that momentarily interrupted the momentum of Nebraska's "we're back~!!" season and proved that if there are college football deities, they have a truly righteous sense of the absurd (or they just enjoy seeing grown men weep uncontrollably).
Against Iowa in particular, though, things went almost as poorly as they had at any point since Dan McCarney had ended Hayden's fifteen-year hex on ISU in 1998. Since McCarney's breakthrough, what had once been a remarkably lopsided rivalry had become ridiculously tense and even -- since 2002, neither team has managed to win more than two games in a row in the series and most of the games have been agonizingly tight. Last year? Not so much. Iowa's 35-3 win was the biggest beatdown since a 63-20 drubbing Iowa delivered in 1997. It was noteworthy for a handful of reasons: it marked the debut of Dakuta Dunes' favored son, Brandon Wegher (and what a debut it was: 101 yards on 15 carries and the unveiling of SuperWegher for his first college TD), it featured the ISU defense allowing four touchdown passes to Ricky Stanzi, and, oh yeah, it was also the third-straight game in the series in which Iowa State failed to score a touchdown. In their last fourteen quarters against Iowa, ISU has managed eight field goals and one
F-U tactically motivated safety. Of course, they did still manage to win one of those games FUCK YOU, BRET CULBERTSON. In any event, the script has been pretty much the same for the last four games in the rivalry: Iowa defense very good, Iowa offense very blah (until last year, anyway, when six ISU turnovers and a porous Cyclone defense led to 35 points and 426 yards of KOK-orchestrated offensive beauty).
Everything about this picture is so, so right.
So do they have, like, history with Iowa? You could say that. I mean, if you want to call a series that's 116 years old (albeit with a forty-three year gap in the middle because state officials thought it was getting too heated) and that inspires no small amount of bile among Iowans "history"... well, then yeah there's no shortage of it. And, more importantly, last year's game gave BHGP the brilliance of Tyler "Motherfucking" Sash, for which we are eternally grateful.
What's the one thing you should know about Iowa State? This is why they can't have nice things, like parties and alcohol and attractive females:
How many of these fools were around a year ago? Seven on offense and four (or sixish) on defense. The offensive returning starters include quarterback, running back, three-fifths of the offensive line, and two wide receivers and/or tight ends. (Frankly, we weren't really keeping close track of which ISU receivers were starting and which ones weren't and ISU's spring 2010 info is a little vague.) The defense returns two starters on the line (three if you count Rashawn Parker, who started in the past but missed all of last year with an ACL injury) and two or three in the secondary (again, info is a little ambiguous).
What should we expect when they have the ball? Well, no touchdowns, AMIRIGHT?
As noted, Austen Arnuad returns at QB and, like the Ameristanzi, he's entering his third year as starter. Normally a returning QB with that much experience would be cause for concern, but Arnaud's track record against Iowa is not good. In fact, it's pretty goddamn horrible. (Unless you're an Iowa fan, of course, in which case it's beautiful.) In two games against Iowa, Arnaud has gone 31-56, 303 yards passing, zero touchdown passes, and six interceptions. He may still have nightmares of last year's game, when Norm Parker had him completely baffled and Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood personally ensured that Arnaud made the bitchmade anthology. Good news, Austen! They'll both be back patrolling the secondary again this year. Aside from the Iowa game, Arnaud put together a year that was reasonably solid but wholly unspectacular: 168-281, 2713 yards, 14 TD/9 INT. Eight of those interceptions came in Arnaud's final four games; some ISU fans would have you believe a finger injury he sustained midway through the season was largely to blame for many of those interceptions, but he's never been a terribly accurate passer. He had ten interceptions as a starter in 2008 and he's a sub-60% passer in his career. He also has some of that dual threat mojo going for him, though; Arnaud had 561 rushing yards (which includes negative yardage plays like sacks, so his true rushing total is likely north of 600 yards) and eight touchdowns. That rushing ability does give us some pause; the Iowa rush defense ended the season by containing Terrelle Pryor (8-29-0) and Josh Nesbitt (20-46-0), but they had enough lapses earlier in the season against Dan Persa (17-67-0), Denard Robinson (9-49-1), and (yes) Arnaud (9-56-0) to makes us a little nervous.
Like Iowa, ISU also has a reasonably experienced back-up in Jerome Tiller; he was actually at the helm when ISU pulled off that shock upset of Nebraska. His overall passing numbers were fairly poor, though: 41/73, 376 yards passing, 1 TD/4 INT. Much like Arnaud, he's also a dual threat (216 yards and a touchdown last year), but he's not a significantly better rusher than Arnaud. At this point, he seems to be a poor man's Arnaud in virtually every respect. Tiller saw action only in mop-up duty or when Arnaud was injured. If Arnaud can go in September, we probably won't see much of Tiller.
The similarities between Iowa and ISU continue at RB; like Iowa, they're also bringing back their leading rusher from a year ago and - ohshit - his name is A. Robinson, too. Jesus, this whole Iowa State team is like an Iowa team from a mirror universe where we wear ugly uniforms and suck at football. They probably all have goatees, too. AHEM. If we're being totally honest here, ISU's A-Rob (or is it A-Robs? This nickname business is confusing.) might actually be kinda sorta maybe better than our A-Rob.
We could argue and say that Robinson's stats are boosted by getting to play in the tackle-phobic Big 12, but let's leave the sour grapes in the garbage: their A-Rob is good. But one pretty big advantage Iowa should have over ISU in the running game is depth; our A-Rob may be our leading returning rusher, but he may wind up being the third option at RB this fall if Brandon Wegher can build off his excellent Orange Bowl performance and Jewel Hampton returns to his 2008-level of angry running. Wegher and Hampton have talent and it's not all paper talk, either; we've seen them produce on the field on multiple occasions. Iowa State, on the other hand, has a handful of guys that have on-paper talent, but not many on-field carries. Beau Blankenship carried the ball four times for eleven yards. Beyond that the guys FOTP CrossCyed identifies as the likely back-ups have a whole lot of nothin' when it comes to experience. (We're rooting for Jeff Woody to get more carries, for obvious reasons.)
Iowa State loses their leading receivers at wide receiver (Marquis Hamilton) and tight end (Derrick Catlett), but they do return a few experienced faces. Jake Williams is their leading returning receiver (36-403-5) and he continues the proud tradition of Inexplicably Great White Douchebag Receivers previously filled by such notable asshats as Lane Danielson and Todd Blythe. Darius Darks is their other leading returning receiver (28-303-2), but CrossCyed thinks he's more of a slot guy, which leaves the other starting spot wide open. Sedrick Johnson was the sort of recruit ISU rarely seems to get (6'4", 200 lbs., 4* Rivals, 3* Scout, 79 on ESPN), but his production thus far hasn't equaled the hype: through two seasons he has just 25 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns. Darius Reynolds is another option at WR (13-72-0 in limited action in '09) but he seems to have contracted a nasty case of Moeaki-itis and is having trouble staying on the field, even in practice. Beyond that the backups fall in the same category as the backup running backs: promising on paper, but no track record to speak of. There's not much at tight end, although Collin Franklin has seemingly been following the Allan Reisner career path: spend a couple years toiling away as a backup and then get a crack at the starting job as a senior. His stats aren't sparkling (33-450-2 over his career), but he's been there long enough to know what he's doing.
We still miss you, Dr. Cuddlekins.
Even though both Dr. Cuddlekins and Captain Party Balls are long gone from manning the ISU trenches, until a week ago, Iowa State was returning four-fifths of their starters on the offensive line and things were looking pretty rosy. Then Scott Haughton, their most experienced starter got dismissed for ye olde "violation of team rules." Details are sketchy; CrossCyed cites good old academic woes, but BHGP's confidential sources have exclusively revealed that he was really dismissed for violating Rule 12(b), which states, "Thou shalt not lie with another man's goat." You don't mess with another man's livestock. The loss of Haughton isn't a deathblow -- ISU still returns three other starters, including Phil Steele's preseason All-Big 12 second-team center in Ben Lamaak -- but the last thing you want is to be breaking in a new face when you play the Iowa defensive line this fall. Haughton was slated to start at right guard, which means some newbie will have the unenviable task of blocking either Christian Ballard or The Incredible GULK come September. Incidentally, according to CC, ISU may have the services of a man named "Hayworth Hicks" at right guard this fall -- yes, Hayworth Hicks. Honestly, we couldn't make up a name that ridiculous for an ISU player if we tried.
ISU also has a largely untested face at right tackle in Brayden Burris; he'll likely draw Broderick Binns and his Go-Go Gadget arms for most of the afternoon next fall. Good luck with that. But the real battle to watch on the edges should be Kelechi Osemele vs. Adrian Clayborn. Osemele was pretty good overall last year (he earned second-team All-Big 12 honors), but he apparently turned into next Jonathan Ogden against Iowa last year and "dominate[d] Adrian Clayborn all day." That is, if you believe the folks at Cyclone Fanatic (and if you do, we strongly encourage you to stop eating paint chips because that shit will kill you). We would grant that Clayborn was certainly not as unstoppable in that game as he was for the remainder of the season (everything seemed to start clicking for him in the Arizona game when he turned into a pass-rushing terror and started making jaw-dropping plays like chasing down Nic Grigsby from behind), but "dominated all day"? Part of us hopes that makes it into the Iowa locker room for motivational purposes, but the other part of us really hopes everyone in the Iowa program is smart enough to treat Cyclone Fanatic like the radioactive cesspool that it truly is. In any event, if the Clayborn that tore through Georgia Tech like a meth-addled wolverine shows up against Iowa State this year, Osmele better channel the powers of Ogden, Orlando Pace, Anthony Munoz and any other great left tackle he can think of, because Clayborn will be picking bits of Arnaud out of his hair for weeks otherwise.
Continued tomorrow with a look at ISU's defense and what to expect from them in 2010.