Let’s face it, you’re tired of the same old previews every offseason. Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of great content out there (and please support your local journalists), but it’s time we developed content that can connect to our viewers on a personal level. So I’m going to tap into something most of us football fans all understand: drinking.
Let’s look at the season like a tailgate—you’ve got the pregame, the party, and the morning after. It’s a long read, but we’ve got to cover all of our bases here. Now, go grab your favorite drink and let’s preview the season in terms everyone can understand.
The pregame is where the party starts, and what better way to start a party than a few drinking games? Preseason awards are overrated and usually wildly inaccurate, so instead of talking about what we’re expecting from the star players on the field, let’s talk about their strengths in a different way.
Most Likely to Beat Everyone in Giant Jenga — Kyle Kempt: Let’s face it, Kyle Kempt isn’t the flashy type, but you know he is two things: a smart decision maker, and cool under pressure. Giant Jenga doesn’t require precision accuracy like other tailgating games, but relies on good decision making and not letting your nerves get the best of you. Even in the most precarious of positions, Kempt knows what to do to stay in the game.
Most Likely to Catch the Beer Bottle AND the Frisbee in Beersbee (Polish Horseshoes) — David Montgomery: Montgomery is the nightmare of most defensive players he faces, known for his elusiveness, but the do-it-all back can be frustrating in many ways. Imagine tossing the perfect frisbee when all of a sudden, Montgomery snatches the flying bottle in one hand and the frisbee in the other before rolling to the ground. His talent is undeniable and sometimes it feels like he’s single-handedly holding the team together. After all, he’s known for never fumbling—and he doesn’t disappoint here either.
Most Likely to Lose a Game on Purpose Just to Chug a Beer — Julian Good-Jones: Good-Jones is one of the most important pieces of the offense and he may just play about every position on the line by the end of the season. Likewise, Good-Jones would be a great partner for pretty much any drinking game, but for some reason that dude just looks like he’s there for the party and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him “accidentally” drop the ball in the ‘boom cup’ just so he can chug it.
Most Likely to Make the Game-winning Cup in Beer Pong — Hakeem Butler: Big Play Ability is actually Hakeem Butler’s middle name. Forget to pull a cup? He’s gonna make you pay. Dagger shot? He’s not missing. Whether it’s bombs from Kyle Kempt or from behind the table, Butler is going to torch you somehow.
Most Likely to “Ice” You — Ray Lima: As one of the most disruptive players on defense, Lima knows how to stop somebody dead in their tracks. But he’s also a silent assassin, one who doesn’t fill up the stat sheet but finds a way to ruin an offense’s day. No tailgate is complete without someone getting iced and Lima is crafty enough to pull it off all day.
Most Likely to Finger the Ball Out of Your Cup in Beer Pong — Brian Peavy: If you give Peavy a window to get his hand on a ball, he’s going to make you pay.
Most Likely to Break the Table You’re Playing Games On — Matt Leo: Doesn’t matter how it happens, you just know he’s the most likely to do it.
Most Likely to Puke and Rally — Kene Nwangwu: This is extremely on-the-nose, but there’s no better description of Nwangwu. He may have been down for the count last year, but he’s back with a vengeance. I’m expecting him to do things we didn’t think were possible earlier.
No college football preview is complete without assessing the schedule, just like no tailgate is a party without a few drinks, right? So let’s combine the best of both worlds, ranking Iowa State’s opponents from weakest to strongest by giving them a drink that best represents them.
The Light Beers
12. Akron – Miller 64: No offense to Akron, but this is like drinking a diet light beer. Cyclone fans know MAC teams aren’t always guaranteed wins (thanks, Campbell), but we also watched this team take care of the Zips on the road last season 41-14—before the Cyclones even hit their stride—so there should be even fewer dramatics this year in Ames.
11. South Dakota State – Busch Light: In Iowa, Busch Light is a title to be proud of and it’s praise that I’m willing to give the Jackrabbits of SDSU. They’ll likely be easy drinking, but like most of us have experienced at some point or another, a few too many and you’ll find yourself in trouble. SDSU beat the likes of NDSU and UNI last season—two teams who have each beaten ISU in the past four seasons—so the upset possibility is there. Still, keep them on ice and they should go down pretty easy.
10. Kansas – Corona with lime: Coronas are pretty easy drinking whether you like them or not, just like Kansas football. The only interesting part about a Corona is that you usually drink them with a lime wedge, just like the only interesting aspect of this game is that it’s on the road. Will it matter? No, just like the lime doesn’t make Corona a better beer, it just makes it a beer with a lime in it. After the 45-0 dismantling of the Jayhawks last season, it’s safe to say they are nothing more than a light beer.
The “Fancy” Domestics
9. Baylor – Guinness: Let’s get this out of the way: F*** Baylor. To say their past is dark would be an understatement, which is part of the reason I chose the darkest domestic beer you can buy. But there’s also a part of Baylor and Matt Rhule’s rebuild that makes them a dark horse in the Big 12—maybe not to compete for the title, but to do some damage in the middle. As a home game, they should be able to handle the Bears, but you’re probably not pounding them as easy as you would a light beer.
8. Texas Tech – Blue Moon: Light, citrusy, and the potential to knock several back when you’re in the mood. For the past two seasons, Iowa State has pounded Texas Tech in ways no other team has done (to the tune of out-scoring them 97-23), and if the Cyclones are in the mood they can probably do it again when the Red Raiders make a visit to Ames. Blue Moon is a bit more complex than other light beers, but are still pretty easy drinking.
7. Kansas State – Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: The “Farmageddon” game has come down to the wire nearly every game in the past decade. The only problem? Only the Cyclones have been left with the bitter taste in their mouths each time. Sierra Nevada is a great beer for pale ale lovers but just like these games, but there’s a bit of a bite to it. The Cyclones hope to capitalize on what some think should be a rebuilding year for the Wildcats as they host them in Ames and hope to finally leave a bitter taste in the Wildcats’ mouths.
The Mixed Drinks
6. West Virginia – Jack and Coke: A bit stronger than the last group of teams, West Virginia poses maybe the most potent threat in the conference with Will Grier returning at quarterback—and he wears No. 7 much like Old No. 7 Brand Tennessee Whiskey. Fortunately for most of West Virginia’s opponents, the depth of the team is closer to Coke. Without Grier last season, the Mountaineers looked really bad, going 0-3 and losing by an average of 19 points per game. The Mountaineers will be no easy out, but with the game being in Jack Trice Stadium, the Cyclones hope to bring enough ice to water down the competition.
5. Iowa – Margarita: Just like margaritas from seemingly every Mexican restaurant, you never know how strong the Hawkeyes will be each time. Some years are stronger than others, but you can always count on two things: having a fun time, and plenty of salt all around. The Cyclones are hoping to set Kirk Ferentz back to .500 in his tenure (currently 10-9 against the Cyclones), but it will be no easy task on the road at Kinnick.
4. Oklahoma State – Long Island Iced Tea: When you order a Long Island, one thing is for certain—you’re getting no shortage of alcohol. Likewise, you can expect plenty of offense from Oklahoma State no matter what version you get. A perennial 10-win team under Mike Gundy, an away game will be difficult to steal, even if the Cowboys are expected to take a step back this season.
3. Texas – Fireball Whisky: A personal opinion of mine is that Fireball is wildly overrated and generally not good. As for the Longhorns—well, if the shoe fits… All jokes aside, Fireball has a lower alcohol content than many realize and most of the “bite” comes from the cinnamon, just like most of Texas’ bite comes from preseason expectations. Regardless, this is a drink you don’t want to mess around with—it burns just as bad coming back up as it did going down. On the road, you can easily get burned playing with fire.
2. TCU – Jager bomb: Like Jager and Red Bull, TCU packs an unique punch. Fueled by a high-octane offense and stifling defense, Gary Patterson usually has his Horned Frogs playing the closest thing to smash mouth football you’ll get in the Big 12. Did Iowa State crack the code last season? Maybe, but you can’t count on TCU’s offense scoring zero points again this year. Going on the road makes this an even stronger drink to try to swallow, and the Horned Frogs’ defense is expected to be at the top of the Big 12 again.
1. Oklahoma – Tequila: Lick the salt, drink the tequila, suck the lime. There’s a formula to taking the perfect tequila shot, just like there’s a formula to beating Oklahoma. Last year, the Cyclones found that formula and produced one of the biggest upsets of the college football season. But tequila has a way of punching you in the mouth and ruining the rest of your night. There’s no Baker Mayfield this year, but the Sooners have no shortage of talent and can you really doubt a team that has claimed 11 of the last 18 conference championships?
The Morning After
It’s all fun and games until the next morning when you have to assess the damages from the day before. There are a few ways it can go: really bad, surprisingly good, or a little bit of both. Let’s apply those scenarios to the Cyclones!
The Hangover from Hell
This is your worst-case scenario. You wake up and before you can even start thinking, you realize you’ve got a headache that could kill a small child and a stomach that could hurl up everything from last night at a moment’s notice. Similarly, Iowa State’s schedule could get ugly quickly—they play 5 of the top-6 teams on their schedule in the first 7 games. Losses to Iowa, Oklahoma, TCU, and OSU early in the season are all painful, but not wholly unexpected. It’s the loss to West Virginia that is the final kick in the gut as the Cyclones crawl to a 2-5 start and bowl hopes are quickly fading. They muster a 3-game win streak against inferior foes, but a loss at Texas leaves their bowl fate resting squarely on the Kansas State game.
In the final game, Iowa State leads Kansas State 30-0 in the fourth quarter before the scoreboard malfunctions and reads “Iowa State: 30, Kansas State: 99.” The refs claim it’s non-reviewable. Snyder nods. Game over. Cyclones finish 5-7. Let the hangover spins wash over you.
The Morning After Miracle
Have you ever woken up after a night you barely remember and somehow feel like a million bucks? Iowa State can feel like they’ve won the lottery if a few things fall their way. After beating both SDSU and Iowa, the Cyclones host one of the biggest games in Jack Trice Stadium history as Oklahoma comes to town. It lives up to the hype. The Cyclones upset the top-10 Sooners for the second year in a row and improve to 4-0 with a win against Akron. TCU is too much for the Cyclones on the road, but they rebound with an impressive stretch of wins against OSU, WVU, TTU, KU, and Baylor. A Big 12 championship spot is on the line at Texas, where the 9-1 and top-10 ranked Cyclones drop a heart-breaker to a Texas team that is climbing up the ranks. They finish with a win against Kansas State to cap off the best season in school history at 10-2 and are headed to the most prestigious bowl game in program history.
The Reasonable Expectation
The key to partying hard is knowing and accepting that the good times come with a few bad consequences. So let’s be realistic, there will be a few headaches, maybe a dry heave here or there, but the journey should still be memorable. The Cyclones start the season strong, getting out to a 3-1 start with the lone loss being in a close game against Oklahoma, but go L/W/L in their next three games. They pick up some steam with a 3-game win streak and are 7-3 and ranked going into a big matchup at Texas. Although they come up short, the Cyclones are able to finally knock off Kansas State to finish 8-4 as rumors of Matt Campbell leaving for another job continue to flood in.