Iowa State Cyclones
Head Coach: Matt Campbell
2018 Results: 8-5, 6-3 Conference
Bowl: 26-28 Loss to Washington State at Alamo Bowl
O/U 8 wins (O -105; U -125)
National Title: +5000
Iowa State will suffer a welcome but substantial loss in watching Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery depart for the NFL, its first two draft selections in over 20-years. The Cyclones now enter its fourth season under Matt Campbell, and after finishing 8-5 the last two years this year could represent something of a regression. Campbell certainly is not prepared to let that happen, however. The Cyclones return 11 post-season Big 12 selections and this team prepares itself to at least be in the Big 12 title chase, with Bovada setting its over/under on wins at the same solid ‘8’ it has been the last two seasons.
Brock Purdy started last year as a true freshman and after beginning 1-3 he became the starting quarterback and led the team to a 7-2 finish over its final nine games. Purdy should be among the best QBs in the Big 12, but what surrounds him leaves plenty of room for questions.
The offensive line is the main issue, which never bodes well for a quarterback or his offense. While five offensive lineman return, the Cyclones are far from a finished unit even so. Montgomery will be replaced by at running back, leaving a hole once occupied by a two-time Big 12 pick. He had just three fumbles over three seasons, and his options for replacement range between Kene Nwangwu, Shedon Croney and Johnnie Lang. They all have some experience.
Freshman Breece Hall and Jirehl Brock will push for playing time, as well. At WR, the holes will be filled by Tarique Milton and Deshaunte Jones, but the TE position will be of great importance in the receiving game, too. Charlie Kolar caught three TDs his freshman season and could be the best pass-catcher at TE in the Big 12. Chase Allen and Dylan Boehner are both very strong options, as well. The TE group will help replace the loss of Butler, who accounted for 35 catches and 1,318 yards last season. Butler’s 22 yards per catch led the nation, but Iowa State will look to replace that production with many shorter routes by its tight end trio.
Great defense is what is driving the improvement of the Iowa State program, and it led the Big 12 in scoring defense last year allowing just 22.9 points per game. It also ranked No. 9 in the nation in rush defense, allowing just 3.26 yards-per-carry from its opponents. The defensive line is the team’s strength, with two All-Conference performers in Jaquan Bailey and Ray Lima at the tackle positions. Bailey has 18.5 sacks in his career, which is tied for the most in school history. He is also No.5 in tackles for loss with 31.5
Those two superb talents are accented by Jamahl Johnson, Enyi Uwazurike, Matt Leo, and Zach Peterson. All have promise on the outside. Iowa State did lose Willie Harvey at linebacker, but it returns Marcel Spears Jr. and Mike Rose. Rose was one of the best freshman defensive players in the nation in 2018. The secondary has some issues, particular at the corners. Brian Peavy was so good over the last four seasons and he will be replaced by Datrone Young and Anthony Johnson, both who saw a lot of time as freshmen. D’Andre Payne, too, is gone. At strong safety, Greg Ellsworth was 2018 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year, and he should be a big player in the defense again this year. Braxton Lewis started all 13 games at safety and returns to bring more experience to the secondary.
Iowa State returns all of its specialists. Walk-on Placekicker Connor Assalley made 16 of 23 field goals, and punter Corey Dunn will look to improve after struggling some as a sophomore.
Montgomery and Butler are obviously two massive losses from last year’s squad. But the Cyclones will be strong enough to avoid a massive falloff in 2019. Purdy is a top-notch quarterback, but the lingering issues in what surrounds him on offense will show itself early enough this season. The OL should be better, and the Iowa State defense will be among the better in the conference.
The Cyclones should have no problem returning to Bowl action for a third-straight season, but it has its eyes set on winding up towards something bigger eventually. Another 8-win season seems probable, but if the offense manages to come together around Purdy it could stretch that by another ‘W,” at least.
Prediction: 8 wins