Bye week a different kind of preparation


Football coaches can get nervous when their game-week routines are altered.

That’s why a six-day workweek (such as prior to the trip to Connecticut) throws a wrench into game planning. All of sudden, Sunday becomes Monday, Monday becomes Tuesday on so on.

The preparation for tomorrow’s football game between Texas and Iowa State is also out of the ordinary, but that is because of a bye week. The Cyclones have not been in game conditions since the Friday night win at UConn. Texas was also idle last week.

So, how did prep go?

“We took advantage of the open week,” Paul Rhoads told the news media Monday. “We got exactly what we wanted out of it … rest, rehab and recruiting.”

The extra time also provided an opportunity for reflection.

“(Our staff) was able to learn from what has been accomplished so far this year and see a clear picture of what we need to do better moving forward,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads did not seem too concerned about his club’s prep work this week

“The neat thing about our team is they realize this is the most-important game on the schedule because it’s the next game,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads believes his team will be ready to play Saturday night and a sold out Jack Trice Stadium will be there to greet them.

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More great games with a nine-game slate


Two of the Bowl Championship Series conferences – the Big 12 and the Pac-12 – are playing nine-game league schedules this fall. In the Big 12 only, that means everybody plays everybody.

What does it mean to play nine league games?

Simply, it means more quality opposition for fans to enjoy and for players / coaches to measure their skills against.

Phil Steele is a renowned college football analyst and in his annual pre-season magazine, he sized up the competitive schedules of the 119 FBS schools.

Not surprisingly, the average schedule ranking (for each member) in the Big 12 (22nd among the 119), Pac-12 (26th) and SEC (26th) led the way by a significant margin. The schools in the Big East have an average schedule rank of 68th, the Big Ten is 46th and the ACC is 41st.

The nine-game league slate leaves less room for cupcake opposition that some schools feast on. Although the SEC doesn’t play nine league games, they have several schools (LSU playing Oregon & West Virginia, Georgia vs. Boise State, Florida vs. Florida State, Arkansas vs. Texas A&M) with rugged non-league opponents.

All of the Big East schools except for Louisville have schedule ranks in the bottom half of the FBS. Georgia Tech (63rd), North Carolina State (65th), North Carolina (68th), Iowa (70th), Wisconsin (71st) and Virginia Tech (83rd) also have full-season schedules in the bottom half of the large-school division.

Beyond guaranteeing a true champion with its round-robin format, the Big 12 is offering its fans better competition on a weekly basis. That is a fact.

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The impact of Texas is felt in different ways


There has been a lot recent discussion about the importance of the University of Texas to the Big 12. The school and its athletics program are, indeed, nationally prominent.

But, another asset that Texas (now, I’m referring to the state) provides the Big 12 is a fertile recruiting area. More than 1,200 high schools play football in that state and more than 300 prep players get Division 1A scholarships annually.

Iowa State recruits Texas hard and nearly two dozen players on the current Cyclone roster grew up in the Lone Star state.

All Big 12 members – Baylor (107 players from Texas), Iowa State (22), Kansas (37), Kansas State (17), Missouri (35), Oklahoma (56), Oklahoma State (69), Texas (103), Texas A&M (109) and Texas Tech (93) – recruit the state for football talent.

The Cyclones are about to begin a stretch of four games in five weeks against schools from the state of Texas. Paul Rhoads and his staff love telling Texas prospects that the Cyclones will be making regular trips to their state so family and friends can watch them play.

A conference is a consortium of schools with different strengths, weaknesses and agendas. No two schools have the same profile and UT does stand alone in some areas.

But (the state of) Texas is an asset for this conference that just keeps giving. If you don’t believe it, check out the league’s rosters.

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Neinas task list doesn’t include on-field success


The Big 12’s interim commissioner, Chuck Neinas, is leading a conference whose football assets are very impressive.

One thing Neinas doesn’t have to worry about, in his temporary role as commissioner, is the performance of the teams. In his introductory media conference Friday, he said as much.

“Take a look at what’s happening on the field,” the former Big Eight Commissioner (1971-80) said. “There are some good football teams and we need to focus on that.”

The Big 12 Conference can boast of …

·         a nation-best 27-2 non-conference record;

·         the cardiac Cyclones, whose three fourth-quarter comeback victories have the school off to its best start since 2005;

·         the NCAA’s most dynamic player in do-everything QB Robert Griffin III of Baylor. He has more TD passes (13) than incomplete passes (12) and his efficiency rating is obliterating the current collegiate record;

·         the nation’s top-rated football team (per USA Today) in Oklahoma.

Beyond that, the Big 12 has five of the NCAA’s top dozen total offenses, two of the Top 10 total defenses and eight schools receiving votes in the coaches’ poll.

Before you play the “who have they faced” card, consider that the NCAA ranks the toughest schedules in the nation and this week’s list includes Kansas (1st), Iowa State and Baylor (tied for 2nd), Missouri (4th), Texas A&M (5th), Texas and Oklahoma (tied for 6th) and Kansas State and Oklahoma State (tied for 8th).

Neinas has a healthy agenda to work through in the coming weeks. But, getting his teams more competitive on the field isn’t one of them.

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Johnson-Lynch quietly breaks record


Christy Johnson-Lynch is officially No. 1.

With a sweep at Texas Tech Saturday, she quietly became the winningest volleyball coach in Iowa State history.

True to her personality, the win came without much fanfare in a city (Lubbock) more than 900 miles from Hilton Coliseum, where Johnson-Lynch has created one of the nation’s best programs.

The benchmark victory was a dominating affair and came by scores of 25-16, 25-18 and 25-16. The victory broke Tech’s 13-match winning streak and took only 90 minutes.

Johnson-Lynch has won 136 of 205 matches as coach. In the 206 matches prior her hiring, Iowa State won only 42 times. The previous record holder for most victories, Vicki Mealer, was 135-110 (.551) from 1985-92.

Although Cyclone fans did not get the chance to show their appreciation for Johnson-Lynch’s accomplishment in person, a ceremony at Hilton Coliseum is in the works.

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Entire head coaching roster is back


When the Iowa State Athletics Department hosts its first Head Coaches meeting this fall, there will be no new introductions. Every head coach from a year ago is back.

That is the first time in a decade that the whole group of Iowa State head coaches return.

Some coaching transitions occur as staff is recruited to other schools. Some of it is based upon decisions to head in a different direction with leadership. Either way, change is inevitable.

“We feel like we have built a very talented group of head coaches and they are excited to be here,” Director of Athletics Jamie Pollard said. “Our job is to continue giving them the resources to be competitive and making Iowa State an attractive place.”

The Cyclones introduced two new coaches in each of the prior four seasons. Three coaches – Greg McDermott, Jay Ronayne and Cael Sanderson – joined the staff in 2006-07. That is the high water mark for change.

Besides 2011-12, the only two seasons in which ISU returned its entire cast of head coaches since the formation of the Big 12 were in 2001-02 and 1996-97.

Hopefully, that stability at the highest level is a stabilizing foundation for future success.

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Cyclones boast of multiple play makers


The Iowa State football staff has been looking for offensive player makers since their arrival three seasons ago.

Playmakers make big-yardage gains, but equally important, playmakers make first downs.

Through three games, the Cyclones are converting 46.4% on third down, 38th best nationally. A year ago, ISU ranked 78th in the NCAA in that category.

The chief playmaker has been quarterback Steele Jantz. He has converted big plays with both his feet and his arm. That dual threat is what makes him special.

Nine of the third-down conversions to date have been long-yardage (at least seven yards) situations. Four of those “long” conversions were runs and five were passes.

The most-memorable conversion, no doubt, came one play after a long TD pass against Iowa was called back for holding. Jantz rallied his huddle and on third-and-20 hit Darius Reynolds on a 40-yard pass to keep a scoring drive alive.

Additionally, the Cyclones are perfect on five fourth-down attempts this season and several of those have produced scores.

When you consider that eight different Cyclones, including Jantz, have accounted for third-down conversions this fall it appears that Paul Rhoads and staff have identified a number of playmakers.

That bodes well as conference play starts in just more than a week.

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Cyclones set season ticket record


The Iowa State football team’s 3-0 start is its best since the 2005. The last time ISU last won its opening four games was 2000.

At the same time the football club is having success on the field, record crowds are coming to Jack Trice Stadium.

Athletics Department officials will announce later today that the school has set an all-time record for season tickets sold. The total of 37,446 – which continues to grow – breaks the old mark of 36,610 set in 2007. This year’s season ticket total is 18% higher than last season.

The fourth- and second-largest crowds in stadium history saw the Cyclones defeat UNI and Iowa to open the year and another crowd in the mid-50,000s is expected for Texas.

The largest three-game crowd total in Iowa State history is 158,371 (in 2007) when the Panthers, Hawkeyes and Longhorns played in Ames. That total will be obliterated in two weeks when the crowd against UT is added to the 110,757 fans who watched this season’s first two games.

The Cyclones’ current home attendance average is ranked 35th nationally. ISU’s average is higher than seven schools in the Big East, eight schools in the Pac-12, seven schools in the ACC and five schools in the Big Ten.

Winning and great crowds go hand-in-hand.

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Cyclones vs. UT on FX; nation’s #1 team on PPV

The Texas at Iowa State football game on Oct. 1 will be televised by FX beginning at 6 p.m. It will be a prime time contest on a national network between undefeated schools.

At the same time the Big 12 announced those television details for the Cyclones and Longhorns, the league also shared that Baylor at Kansas State (ABC), Texas Tech at Kansas (FSN) and Ball State at Oklahoma (PPV) would be aired live on TV that weekend.

Yes, you read that right.

The Oklahoma Sooners, currently ranked No. 1 nationally by USA Today and AP, will have their non-conference game shown via pay-per-view. Without a PPV option, the Sooners’ game would not have been available on live TV.

But, Sooner Nation has a reputation for buying the right to watch OU.

Oklahoma has done pay-per-views in the past. If history is an indication, Oklahoma will sell roughly 10,000 subscriptions for the PPV telecast against Ball State. Although the price has not been set yet, PPV games with the Sooners in the past have cost approximately $30.

Should ISU have a non-league game not chosen for TV in the future, the PPV option could be available to the Cyclones. But, ISU fans need to understand the type of demand required for PPV consideration from the conference.

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Rhoads’ clubs have rep for good TO margin


The Iowa State football team is 3-0 for the first time since 2005.

Trying to explain that start is a bit tricky from a statistical standpoint, especially considering the club’s turnover woes.

Coaches lament turnovers. Experts generally say turnovers determine winners and losers.

After three games, the Cyclones have a minus-5 turnover margin, tied for 113th nationally. The other seven schools nationally with TO margins of minus-5 or worse – Army, SMU, Tulsa, Akron, UAB, Western Kentucky and Notre Dame – have registered a 5-15 record.

The top seven schools nationally in turnover margin this fall – Cincinnati, Rutgers, Utah, Texas Tech, San Diego State, Vanderbilt and Wyoming – have posted a record of 16-3.

Certainly, Coach Paul Rhoads will use the bye week to preach about cutting down on errors. His past two teams played clean football, ranking 30th and tied for 36th nationally in turnover margin.

Rhoads will likely be reminding his club that its success of the past two years was tied to protecting the ball on offense and creating errors on defense.

Meanwhile, the Cyclones rest at 3-0.

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