2015 Iowa State Cyclones Football Preview

Team Info
Iowa State Cyclones
Head Coach: Paul Rhoads
2014 record: 2-10 overall, 0-9 Big 12
2014 Bowl result: None
2014 returning starters: 6 offense, 4 defense

Betting Info
Odds to win 2016 College Football  Championship game: 1200/1
Odds to win 2015 Big 12 title: 150/1
Regular season wins: over 3 -135 / under 3 +105
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Iowa State looks for dramatic improvement in 2015 after combining for 5 wins in the last two seasons.
Iowa State looks for dramatic improvement in 2015 after combining for 5 wins in the last two seasons.

After a total of five wins in the last two seasons, the Iowa State Cyclones need to get a whole lot better in 2015. Coach Paul Rhoads is on the hot seat and could find himself out of a job. Only 10 starters are back though and it could be another miserable season in Ames.

Last season, Iowa State went 2-10 but the wins were over rival Iowa and Toledo. Both of those teams went to bowl games last year. The Cyclones were throttled by three time FCS champion North Dakota State in Ames. The record could have been slightly better as the Cyclones had three losses to Kansas State, Texas and Texas Tech by a total of 10 points. The low point was a 20 point loss to Kansas which ended up being a battle to avoid last place in the conference.

Offense

The offense wasn’t great last year averaging 373 yards and 23 points per game. That won’t work at all in the offensive minded Big 12. It was a little surprising given Mark Mangino was the offensive coordinator and he usually engineers high powered offenses. Now in his second year as coordinator, the Cyclones hope for more offensive punch.

Senior quarterback Sam Richardson is back to run the offense. Last year, he completed 56.3% of his passes for 2,669 yards with 18 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Richardson was also the second leading rusher with 125 carries for 421 yards and 3 touchdowns. Junior Grant Rohach is the back-up. He started the Kansas game last year in place of an injured Richardson.

Iowa State must replace their top two running backs from a year ago in Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy. Wimberly, Nealy and Richardson combined for almost 350 carries last season. Sophomores Tyler Brown and Martinez Syria were expected to compete for the starting tailback job but Syria was kicked off the team in June for an unspecified rules violation. Look for redshirt freshman Mike Warren to get the carries Syria would have gotten. Brown had only 24 carries last year for 109 yards, but he did catch a touchdown pass. Incoming freshman Sheldon Croney accidentally shot himself in the hand in May and his status is up in the air.

While there are plenty of questions at running back, the Cyclones have the luxury of a deep and experienced receiving crew. Quenton Bundrage tore his ACL in the season opener last year and returns healthy in 2015. He made 9 touchdown catches in 2013. D’Vario Montgomery had 44 catches for 605 yards and 2 touchdowns and is also back. Allen Lazard is also back after making 45 catches for 593 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Cyclones must replace tight end Emmanuel Bibbs, now with the Cleveland Browns and wide receiver Jarvis West. Bibbs and West combined for 91 catches and Bibbs had 8 touchdown catches. Ben Boesen will be the new tight end.

Part of the reason Iowa State has struggled the last two seasons is because the offensive line has battled injuries to key players both seasons. Three starters are back led by left tackle Jake Campos. If the Cyclones can stay healthy up front that should help the offense be more productive.

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Defense

Last year, coordinator Wally Burnham’s defense was atrocious ranking #118 or worse out of 128 FBS in all defensive categories. The Cyclones gave up 529 yards and 39 points a game on defense. They can’t get much worse, but I don’t see a lot of improvement with only four starters back on defense.

On the line, JUCO transfer Desmond Tucker should move into the noseguard spot. Devlyn Cousin will start at defensive tackle. The ends will be Dale Pierson and Trent Taylor who gained valuable experience last year.

There will be a whole new starting linebacking unit. Luke Knott was supposed to grab one of the three starting spots but he had complications from a hip injury last season and his football career is in jeopardy. He could play in 2015 but no one knows for certain. JUCO transfer Jordan Harris is expected to start at middle linebacker.

The secondary is easily the most experienced unit on defense with three starters back. Corners Sam E. Richardson (not to be confused with quarterback Sam B. Richardson) and Nigel Tribune are both back. Free safety Kamari Cotton-Moya was the Big 12 freshman defensive player of the year last year. Strong safety T.J. Mutcherson was supposed to be back as well but was dismissed from the team in the offseason. Qujuan Floyd will start in his place.

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Special Teams

Junior kicker Cole Netten made 11 of 14 field goals last year. Sophomore punter Colin Downing averaged 39 yards per punt last year. JUCO transfer Jamal Wiltz was recruited strictly to return kicks and punts.

Schedule

Iowa State opens the season with home games against in-state rivals Northern Iowa and Iowa, before traveling to Toledo. October brings home games against Kansas, TCU and Texas, and road games at Texas Tech and Baylor. In November, the Cyclones have road games at Oklahoma, Kansas State and West Virginia and a home game against Oklahoma State.

Outlook

It is possible Iowa State could win their first four games, and then lose eight straight to close out the season. Actually that is the best case scenario and that would still involve upsets of Iowa and Toledo. The offense should be much improved in 2015 but the defense could still be terrible. All in all I think it still adds up to another long season in Ames.

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