Remember when the Cyclones, with the backdrop of a century or so of largely irrelevant football, suddenly became an annual nuisance in the Big 12? And in 2020, they graduated to menace, beating Oklahoma and Texas in the regular season, reaching the league title game and then smacking Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl?
It was enough to make Matt Campbell’s program a preseason darling in 2021, when it opened the season ranked in the top 10. That unraveled relatively quickly on the way to a 7-6 season, and last year’s 3-0 start preceded a 1-8 run in the Big 12 that featured six one-possession losses.
Iowa State wasted an elite defense last year, and while it’s a bit early to bestow that label for this season, the Cyclones remain a team tilted toward one side of the ball. And it’s not the offense.
Opponents are averaging a mere 253.7 yards against Iowa State through three games, and neither Northern Iowa (279) nor Iowa (235) nor Ohio (247) has mustered 300 yards. Then again, neither has Iowa State, which has managed 270.3 yards an outing and topped out at 290 against Iowa.
Oh, and the Cyclones are now 1-2 after their 10-7 loss at Ohio, with the Big 12 slate set to begin next week against Oklahoma State.
Last season slowly swirled away as performances featuring a stout defense and an inert offense stacked up on each other. The same thing might be happening this year as well.