2011 Iowa State Cyclones College Football Preview

Iowa State Cyclones
2010 record:  5-7 overall, 3-5 conference
2010 Bowl Game:  N/A
2010 ATS:  5-7
2010 O/U:  3-9
Returning starters:  12 total (5 on offense, 7 on defense)

Iowa State offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele is expected to be a major force in the Big 12 Conference

Over the month of August, our team of writers will be previewing the top teams heading into an exciting 2011 campaign.  The college football handicappers at Maddux Sports are also preparing and have season-long packages readily available for clients.  Let’s take a look at the football program in Ames, Iowa heading into a third year under head coach Paul Rhoads.

Offense

The biggest question mark for a team that many are calling the deepest the program has had in years is quarterback.  Junior Jerome Tiller has entered camp No. 1 on the depth chart, but is being asked to improve his accuracy.  He has connected on 80-of-155 career passes.

If he slips up, Steele Jantz is ready to assume the role, a transfer from City College of San Francisco.  He needs to quickly grasp the playbook to overtake Tiller for the starting nod against Northern Iowa on Sept. 3, but he threw for 23 touchdowns and rushed for 14 more against junior college competition last year.

Big things are expected out of sophomore Shontrelle Johnson in the backfield, as he broke out with 103 yards and a 61-yard touchdown against Texas Tech last year.  Rhoads has commented that the running back position could be the team’s biggest strength over the course of the 2011 campaign.

The wide receiving group lacks big-play ability, but does have experience.  The Cyclones averaged less than 10 yards a catch in 2010, while finishing the year with its longest catch being just 39 yards.

Darius Darks is listed as a team captain and has gained over 1,100 receiving yards in his career.  The main concern surrounding him is injuries, as 47 of his 106 career receptions came during his freshman year (2008).

Depth on the offensive line is also considered a strength and all the attention will be focused on Kelechi Osemele.  He’s a preseason first-team All-Big 12 lineman and current featured on the Outland Trophy watch list.

Defense

All the talk entering the season is focused around applying more pressure to opposing quarterbacks, as the unit managed to tally just 11 sacks in 2010.  Despite the inability to get into opposing backfields, the defense finished seventh in the conference in total defense (408.2).

Both defensive ends from a year ago return, but that’s not likely to solve the problem of getting to the quarterback.  Jacob Lattimer has the chance of showing the most improvement, as he ended up leading the team with four sacks.  He moved to the position after starting the first half of the season at linebacker.

Pass defense was a strength in 2010 and a talented tandem returns in senior Ter’Ran Benton and Leonard Johnson.  The secondary finished sixth in the conference in pass defense and that number is likely to improve.

Special Teams

Place-kicker Grant Mahoney finished 8-of-17 in his field goal attempts last year, but seven of the eight misfires came from 45 yards and beyond.  He also possesses a big leg, hitting a 57-yard field goal that ended up being the second longest in the country.

A major weapon returns to handle the punting duties, as Kirby Van Der Kamp earned first-team freshman All-American honors.

Kick returns will be handled by a talented trio, featuring Johnson in key situations.

Against the Spread

Surprisingly enough, the Cyclones have managed to cash tickets as a home favorite, posting a 4-1 ATS mark under Rhoads’ watch.

Bet On

Bettors have found great success in playing Iowa State against its in-state rival, covering 10 of the last 13 meetings with Iowa.  Don’t miss out on getting the best number by checking out the college football lines page.

Fade Away

Stay away from backing the Cyclones in their home matchup against Texas A&M, as they are 0-3 ATS when hosting in the series.  The game is also sandwiched in between road games at Missouri and Texas Tech.

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