This series of articles analyzes the situation of the Big 12 with the season approaching. For every team, there will be a look to the 2016 season and to some facts, followed by a deeper discussion about 2017 perspectives.
The order will follow the 2016 standings, so the first team to be analyzed will be Kansas and the last one will be Oklahoma.
STADIUM: Jack Trice Stadium (1975)
SEATING CAPACITY: 61,500
2017 RECRUITMENT RANKINGS: 53rd (7th in Big 12)
ALL-TIME RECORD vs. TEXAS TECH: 4-11-0
If the Cyclones could eliminate past September, they would do it willingly. A 1-3 record that includes losses to FCS Northern Iowa, to state rival Iowa by 39 points, and to TCU by 21 points is something to forget quickly.
Performances began to improve in October but the results didn’t, as the record was a sad 0-4, also if three out of four defeats were by seven points or less. Things got better in November, with two wins (unfortunately one was the 66-10 against Texas Tech) that improved the final record to 3-9.
Looking back to 2015, we could expect that in 2016 the rushing game would have been the top choice and the passing game a complement, and the reason had a name, Mike Warren: two seasons ago, as a rookie, he ran 1339 yards, was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, and seemed to be ready to become one of the best backs in the nation. Unfortunately, he dealt with an ankle sprain and was called out by Head Coach Matt Campbell for weak practices.
Consequently, the Cyclones’ rushing offense ranked 82nd in the nation with 162.75 yards per game, while the passing offense ranked 40th with 258.8 yards per game. This rise of the latter was also made possible by quarterback Jacob Park, who was the backup of week 1 starter Joel Lanning, but earned playing time week by week and finished having five games with more than one touchdown pass.
Not considering the offensive line, Iowa State can line up an offense that is young but experienced and saw a lot of action in past seasons. Warren is totally healthy again and he will have an interesting fellow in David Montgomery, the best running back of the past season with 5.2 yards per attempt.
Park had an entire offseason to take first-team reps and has a reliable unit of wide receivers: Allen Lazard is a big senior (6-feet-5, 222 pounds) who received 1,108 yards in 2016 and Deshaunte Jones had 536 as a freshman. Around them, there is a unit that loses only a few pieces but brings in another tall receiver, the JuCo transfer Matthew Eaton, ranked by ESPN as the No. 4 JuCo wide receiver in the country.
If we consider the offensive line, we can see that there are some problems, as five out of seven of the most experienced linemen are gone, including 2nd All-Big 12 Nick Fett and Honorable Mention Patrick Scoggins. According to the latest depth charts, some help will come from JuCo transfer Oge Udeogu, while graduate transfer David Dawson, a former 4-stars guard from Michigan, was supposed to play his fifth college year in Ames but left the team in June.
In 2016, the defense was not the most efficient unit of the team: the Cyclones allowed more than 30 points on seven occasions, the rushing defense was ranked 103rd in the country with 218.17 yards allowed per game and the passing defense was not much better, ranking 75th in FBS with 234.80 yards allowed.
Most parts of the defensive line graduated, as did Kane Seeley, the leading tackler on the team, so Iowa State will rely on many JuCo transfers, like defensive lineman Ray Lima, ranked among the top-10 defensive linemen of the nation by Scout.com. There is some house-made talent too, like sophomore JaQuan Bailey, who led the team in sacks, and linebacker Willie Harvey. Former quarterback Joel Lanning made the transition to defense and will be the starting middle linebacker.
The secondary returns almost intact and can be the strength of the unit: free safety Kamari Cotton-Moya had two interceptions, cornerback Brian Peavy broke up 11 passes and D'Andre Payne had 5.5 tackles for loss. However, it is not only a fact of numbers, as the unit is experienced, talented, and still has growth margins. Consequently, if it obtains some help from the front we could really see an improvement from the 31.3 points allowed per game of 2016.