No complaining in the Big 12. Just play ‘em all.

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Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas will began their Big 12 football campaigns this week.

Section 1.3.1.1 of the Big 12 Conference by-laws specifies that “The mission of the Conference is to organize, promote and administer intercollegiate athletics among its member institutions.”

That’s the core goal.

In layperson language, it means the league wants to determine a champion in each of its sports on an annual basis. What’s likely understood, but not stated, is that the league wants to do that on a fair and equitable basis.

Playing everybody is the best way to do that.

The Big 12 Conference’s round-robin scheduling format means that no school avoids the best teams in any given year because of scheduling imbalances.

“That’s pretty doggone fair,” South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier said about the Big 12’s round-robin scheduling this summer.

Alabama is the nation’s top-ranked school playing in the nation’s toughest conference. However, the Tide won’t play any of the three ranked schools – Florida (18th), Georgia (6th) or South Carolina (13th) from the SEC’s east division. Georgia, meanwhile, won’t face ranked western division squads Alabama (1st), LSU (10th) or Texas A&M (9th) in conference play.

In the Pac-12, four schools in the north are undefeated in conference play. In the south division, only one school has a league win. There will be inequities there for sure.

Play everybody and tally up the results. Throw in a few tiebreakers in case they’re needed with head-to-head matchup being the key one.

The Big 12 formula is pretty clean. It is a grueling nine-game stretch, but a true champion will be determined.

 

317 and 86. That’s the Tulsa recap.

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The credit for Iowa State’s win at Tulsa Thursday night could go many directions. A lot of stats will be shared today to explain the Cyclones’ dominating performance.

 My favorite numbers are 317 and 86.

 In the AutoZone Liberty Bowl match-up between the same schools last December, Tulsa rushed for 317 net yards. Tulsa netted 86 yards on the ground last night.

 In the bowl game, UT got 149 yards on the ground from Trey Watts, 79 from Ja’Terian Douglas and 51 from Cody Green.

 All three of those Tulsa ballcarriers returned this year along with three starting linemen. The Cyclone defense, meanwhile, is trying to replace an All-Big 12 tackle and two NFL linebackers.

 With those personnel facts as the backdrop, Tulsa averaged only 3 yards per carry Thursday. Watts, Douglas and Green had 38, 24 and negative 5 yards, respectively.

 “To hold a team to less than 100 yards rushing – especially with their returning talent – is a big statistic,” Coach Paul Rhoads said on his post-game radio show.

 There will be accolades for the ISU offense, too. Its 38 points were noteworthy.

 But, winning teams play good run defense. After giving up more than 300 yards on the ground to Tulsa in the bowl, allowing 231 fewer yards last night had to be really satisfying.

The most balanced run game in college football – based upon attempts – wants a hot hand

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Iowa State, Colorado and Navy are the only Division 1A football teams that have played just two games. So, it’s not surprising the Cyclones have the fewest rush attempts (68) nationally.

 One of the pressing topics at Paul Rhoads’ news conferences has been the split of carries between his five tailbacks and QB Sam Richardson.

 No school in the nation has more evenly split its tailback carries to this point than the Cyclones. James White, Shontrelle Johnson and Aaron Wimberly have 12, 11 and 10 attempts respectively.

 Some people have pushed the concept of “playing the hot hand” in regards to rush attempts.

 “We haven’t gotten a hand, foot or elbow hot yet,” Rhoads said Monday. “We haven’t been able to put that philosophy into play.”

 Missouri has tailbacks with 34, 31 and 25 carries. Mississippi State has split their RB attempts 29, 29 and 21. Those are the most balanced splits for carries – outside of the Cyclones – at the running back position.

 Interestingly, the QBs at Missouri and Mississippi State lead their teams in carries. That’s just like the Cyclones.

 Rhoads and his offensive staff believe the QB run game is integral to their offense. Seventeen FBS schools have quarterbacks currently leading their team in rushing attempts.

 It doesn’t matter to Rhoads how the Cyclones’ run game get gets ignited or who sparks it. He’s simply anxious for the hot hand to emerge.

 “I’ll let you know when somebody warms up a little bit,” Rhoads said.

 You won’t need to tell us, coach. We’ll just check who’s getting most of the carries.

Business trip to Tulsa will offer a new way to look at things.

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“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller, author

 The destination this week for the Iowa State football is Tulsa and Coach Paul Rhoads believes the trip could be a catalyst for improvement.

 “A lot of times, it (going on the road) is good,” Rhoads said. “We are looking forward to taking a business trip and getting in that kind of atmosphere. You are more locked arms and have the people in the locker room (along with) parents and the great fans that follow you on the road.”

 That type of support can be beneficial.

 “Sometimes it is a very positive thing and we’ll try to generate that (feeling),” said Rhoads, who has enjoyed four of his monumental victories as a coach on the road.

 The Cyclones won at Nebraska (first win in Lincoln in 32 years) in ‘09, at No. 22 Texas in ‘10, at No. 19 Texas Tech in ‘11 and at No. 15 TCU last fall. Tulsa isn’t ranked the but stakes are still big.

 The last time that ISU dropped two home games in a row and then went on the road to get a victory was 2001. The Cyclones lost to Kansas State and Colorado at Jack Trice Stadium before whipping Kansas (49-7) in Lawrence. That run, of course, came midseason in conference play.

 The only time in school history that Iowa State lost its first two games at home and then got their first victory of the year on the road was more than 90 years ago.

 Coach Sam Willaman’s team dropped games to Coe (24-0) and Missouri (6-3) to open the 1922 season. That team then went to Grinnell and posted a 7-0 victory.

 If Willaman’s name is familiar, he was the high school, and eventually, college coach for Jack Trice.

 Maybe, there is some more road magic ahead. Rhoads has a history of such.

 

 

Quite a few new faces will be on the field for third Cyclone-Hurricane encounter.

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Iowa State and Tulsa will be playing a football game against one another for the third time in 391 days.

 Since Tulsa won the most-recent game, ISU Coach Paul Rhoads was asked how the bowl game result might affect preparations.

 “It’s not like I’m pounding (or blowing) the whistle at the end of every practice to say ‘we owe these guys,’” Rhoads said. “I’m sure their players took care of that (mindset) in preparation for the bowl game and I would expect the same is true of our guys… as we get ready to play them a third time.”

 When the schools had their re-match in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl last December, Iowa State had 17 (of 22) of the same starters it used in the opener. The Golden Hurricane had 15 repeat starters.

 Only 9 Cyclones and 7 Tulsa players will line up as starters again Thursday after starting in the bowl game. Just one Hurricane defender in this week’s lineup also started the bowl game.

 All of that chatter, however, takes a back seat to the fact that both teams need a win.

 “We’re certainly in need of a win and Tulsa is as well,” Rhoads said. “That’s the great thing about sports and competition. Both (groups) working for the same prize.”

 Working for the same prize is a routine these foes are familiar with. But, when they meet again in two days they’ll do so with a number of new faces in the lineup.

 And, a new script will be written.

Twenty-two linemen in the Big 12 have more career starts than Iowa State’s quintet.

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On the final play of the Iowa game, the Cyclones’ offensive line included Brock Dagel, Oni Omoile, Ben Loth, Daniel Burton and Jacob Gannon.

 College career starts for the quintet: 9.

 There are 22 offensive linemen in the Big 12 with more starts than that as individuals.

 All five K-State linemen have more starts than the Cyclones’ group. It’s the same at Texas. Four blockers at Oklahoma can make that claim, too.

 It’s a reality that experience on the o-line is a big factor.

 “We’ve got to get some continuity (with guys) playing 4-5-6 series in a row together,” coordinator Courtney Messingham said Wednesday. “Then, putting games together with continuity up front.”

 When asked early this week what he wanted from his team, Paul Rhoads said “get older, faster.”

 Translated, he explained that meant getting experience. And, Rhoads wants those repetitions to come under the bright lights.

 “Game reps are different,” Rhoads said. “As you gain more game reps, you improve as a football player and as a football team. We’ve got to play our way into being better to be quite candid.”

 The Cyclones have a lack of experience in several spots, but it is most apparent on the offensive line.

 Rhoads expects to see continued improvement.

 “I was pleased with what happened in the two weeks leading into this (Iowa) game,” he said. “Now, we’ve got to add to that.”

 Tulsa, next week, is when the bright lights get turned on again.

“Indispensable Cyclone” poll may have been correct and ISU eagerly waits for C/QB combination to gain health

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Maybe, there is a silver lining in the herky-jerky early season football schedule at Iowa State.

 Open the season, and then don’t play for 14 days.

 Play another game, and then go 12 more days with no game preparation.

 The lack of normal game weeks has been a challenge for Coach Paul Rhoads and his staff, but the extra rest is allowing for some healing. At least, we hope so.

 The Des Moines Register conducted an online poll in the preseason to choose the most indispensable Cyclones. The winner of that poll was QB Sam Richardson (34%). He was followed closely by linebacker Jeremiah George (16%) and center Tom Farniok (15%).

 George and Farniok likely earned many votes because of the lack of experience in their respective position groups.

 George is currently sandwiched between a pair of first-year starters and former safeties now playing linebacker for the first time.

 Farniok, a 27-game starter in his career, was scheduled to anchor an offensive line with a sophomore and a freshman guard but his first-half injury vs. UNI scrambled the whole front.

 “We’re hopeful Tom (Farniok) will be back for Tulsa based upon his progress so far,” Rhoads said.

 Richardson is bothered by a sore ankle, limiting his mobility and throwing accuracy.

 “You saw the same thing I did,” Rhoads said when asked if Richardson’s ankle was bothering him against Iowa. “Yes, it is.”

 The extra days of rest could be beneficial, especially for two of the three players listed on the Register’s poll. Their return to near full health would be a positive jolt to the offense.

It’s a playmaker’s game and two of them emerged Saturday night.

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The clichés are pretty familiar.

 Make somebody miss… win a one-on-one battle in the trenches… catch the ball in traffic… bust a double team… pick off a pass…

 Those are things that playmakers do. Iowa State is in search of playmakers.

 Despite its frustrating Saturday night loss to an in-state rival, the Cyclones saw the emergence of two such playmakers.

 Receiver Quenton Bundrage registered six catches for 146 yards and all three ISU touchdowns. On his 67-yard score, he showed a “make somebody miss” move.

 “He’s one guy that I thought could be our ‘go to’ receiver,” Head Coach Paul Rhoads said. “We haven’t had those types of explosive plays in a game in four years and two games. Hopefully, that’s a start to a piece that this offense has been sorely lacking.”

 Where Bundrage was touted as that type of playmaker in camp, the emergence of defensive tackle David Irving was more surprising.

 Irving has been at his current position just over three weeks (moving from end) and his five-tackle performance included multiple plays in the opponent’s backfield, a forced fumble and a tipped pass.

 “(He) started to stand out,” Rhoads said of his 6-7 junior. “A true third-year player in a position he’s never been (at) in his life. The glimpses you saw of David will continue as we go along.”

 On a night when the win-loss ledger leaned the wrong way, it was a flicker of light to see the emergence of Bundrage and Irving.

 That duo should have more confidence going forward and, perhaps, it’s also setting an expectation and realization that others can step into the playmaking role, too.

Old man or diehard? Not sure, but I’ll miss these historic games.

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“Florida-Miami and Michigan-ND grudge matches go the way of the CD – i.e. only old men and diehards will miss them.” – Sports Illustrated, SCORECARD, 9/16/13

 Much of the pre-game hype for last week’s Notre Dame vs. Michigan football game centered on the fact that the series was ending. College football’s two winningest programs are ending a 12-year run of annual meetings.

 Coach Paul Rhoads was lamenting that reality, along with several others, Monday.

 “Pitt-West Virginia… Pitt-Penn State… Texas-Texas A&M…” Rhoads listed. “The talk is now about Michigan-Notre Dame and nobody is happy about that.”

 All four of the games Rhoads mentioned featured schools from different conferences. These contests set the bar for hearty discussions throughout the season about school or league superiority.

 That brings us to Iowa State-Iowa. It’s Big 12 vs. Big Ten.

 “I think it’s a great rivalry and people in the state of Iowa would be up in arms if it went away,” Rhoads said. “Look at the reaction of people across the nation to the games not being played.”

 Rhoads also noted that the evenness in the series has made it a real rivalry. In the 1990s, the in-state match-ups were one-sided.

 “(There were) players in the state of Iowa that we were recruiting that had never witnessed or remembered an Iowa State victory in the series,” Rhoads recalled from his days as a Cyclone assistant coach. “(Today), I refer to it as a fun rivalry. I think the state enjoys it (and) the 2 programs enjoy it. It’s competitive and it’s what college football is all about.”

 Yes, Paul, rivalries are what college football is all about.

 I guess that makes me a diehard or an old man because I’ll miss these traditional tilts.

Run, pass and protect the ball… “QB Sam” has shown a knack through four college appearances

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The Iowa State offense completed 69% of its passes, netted 168 yards rushing, registered 410 yards of total offense and suffered no turnovers in its season opener against UNI.

Those are fairly impressive numbers and represent numerous facet of the offense.

Only three other times (Texas Tech, 2010, Oklahoma State, 2001 and UNLV, 1995) in the last 20 years have the Cyclones completed better than 65% of their throws, netted at least 150 yards on the ground, totaled 400 yards total and had no miscues in a game.

  • Texas Tech, 2010 (71%, 251 rushing, 441 total offense, 0 TOs). ISU won 52-38
  • Oklahoma State, 2001 (84%, 285 rushing, 435 total offense, 0 TOs). ISU won 28-14
  • UNLV, 1995 (100%, 586 rushing, 648 total offense, 0 TOs). ISU won 57-30

There have been eight other contests since ’93 when the Cyclones hit that percentage, netted that much rushing and gained more than 400 yards. But, they also had a turnover.

  • Kansas, 2012 (79%, 241 rushing, 548 total offense, 1 TO). ISU won 51-23
  • Baylor, 2009 (69%, 240 rushing, 454 total offense, 1 TO). ISU won 24-10
  • Kansas State, 2005 (70%, 221 rushing, 415 total offense, 1 TO). ISU won 45-17
  • Missouri, 2002 (66%, 177 rushing, 602 total offense, 1 TO). ISU won 42-35
  • Baylor, 2001 (83%, 179 rushing, 509 total offense, 1TO). ISU won 41-0
  • Iowa, 2000 (67%, 246 rushing, 485 total offense, 1 TO). ISU won 24-14
  • Wyoming, 1996 (77%, 249 rushing, 474 total offense, 1 TO). ISU lost 38-41
  • Northern Illinois, 1993 (78%, 337 rushing, 543 total offense, 1 TO). ISU won 54-10

 The Kansas game last fall (a 51-23 bowl-clinching win) began with a Steele Jantz fumble on the first drive of the game. Sam Richardson replaced him on the third series and led an offense that completed 79% of its throws, had 241 net yards rushing and 548 total yards in a 28-point win.

 So, Richardson has been behind center in two of the better offensive games in the last two decades at ISU.

 Certainly, a tough loss like the UNI game two weeks ago can lead to wayward opinions. Lots of people were sharing strong sentiments about the ISU offense on online channels last week.

 On closer inspection, though, the Cyclone offense did some pretty special things against the Panthers. With Richardson at the controls, we’ll see if it can continue.