We pretty much know two things to be true about this upcoming football season for Iowa State:
- The Cyclones look very different
- The Big 12 feels very different
Our friends in Las Vegas say 6.5 wins is on the menu with -115 juice in both directions. This means if the thing happens where 50/50 events become 80/20 events in favor of the opposition (Marchie Murdock caught that ball — you know it and I know it), then bowl eligibility for Iowa State in 2022 might take a little more elbow grease than we initially thought.
Alternatively, with a few lucky bounces and perhaps even “winning in the margins” becoming a real thing rather than a tired phrase that brings about the same reaction as “trickle-down economics,” then you’ve probably got yourself a really good football season above expectation given the program’s glaring lack of returning production.
It’s also becoming increasingly clear that the Cyclones’ annual date with Iowa on September 10th is going to be one of the most critical Cy-Hawk contests in recent memory — just what you want to hear after six straight years of believing that this is finally the moment you’re going to beat up your dad, only to look down and realize you have tied your own shoelaces together. You are now lying in the fireplace.
Let’s be honest: Beating Iowa means suddenly home games against Baylor and K-State sandwiched around a road trip to Lawrence could look like 2-1 instead of, you know, 1-2 with a full-body sweat against Kansas.
Beating Iowa means a potentially top-25 Iowa State could be looking to pick up win #6 before Halloween instead of after Thanksgiving as an underdog in Fort Worth.
Beating Iowa, it pains me to say, means “new” and “different.” And in a year in which this team already looks different and this league already feels different… different is suddenly exciting rather than scary.
Anyway, now that you’ve made it through the 300 words that nobody ever cares to read when they open a predictions article — welcome. I reward you with picks.
Since we don’t yet have Vegas lines for every game, the (lines) I include here are derived from Bill Connelly’s SP+ ratings, probably the most consistently elite analytics system in the sport. And yes, these ratings do factor in home field advantage. Off we go…
September 3: vs. Southeast Missouri (+37.5 in Vegas)
I think “not Northern Iowa” is just what the doctor ordered for this year’s Week 1 tune-up — and the fact that this team is no longer saddled with the expectation of a 13-step program to a conference championship… or a Sugar Bowl… or both. Jeff Sagarin’s preseason ratings would have SEMO as a hypothetical three-touchdown underdog to Kansas. Let’s be cool about this. Cyclones by 28. 1-0.
September 10: @ Iowa (-9)
My outlook on this game is well documented among people close to me: Iowa State is going to win this game because it doesn’t make any sense at all. Not even a little bit. Iowa will turn the ball over in this matchup for the first time since Obama was President. Actually, they will do it more than once. The over will smack. The Cyclones will make a key special teams play. Nothing will make sense. I provide you with no other analysis other than #vibes. Cyclones by a weird ass number like 5. 2-0.Embed from Getty Images
September 17: vs. Ohio (+22)
We are all going to hate how close this game is. But I’m definitely not calling it a Super Bowl hangover. You may have been thinking it, but I was not. I never said it. Random note here: A Roarke brother (Kurtis this year, Nathan before him) will be Ohio’s starting QB for a 6th consecutive year. You will hate him by the end of the afternoon. Cyclones by 14. 3-0.
September 24: vs. Baylor (-3.5)
You could say I’m playing the odds having already picked a questionable win over Iowa, but the truth is this is going to be a reload job by Baylor — and this doesn’t necessarily mean a repeat of last year (I have them going 8-4), it just means we should probably take the preseason Big 12 poll at face value. They are well-coached, especially in tight spots, and this will be a tight spot. To this point, Iowa State will probably not have been tested by an above average offense, and that feels like the difference here. Baylor by 7. 3-1 (0-1).
October 1: @ Kansas (+15)
There are lots of different ways you could rationalize this being the kind of game that makes you want to put your head in a hydraulic press, so I will go with the most obvious set of circumstances which is: 1. It’s the first conference road trip of the season, and 2. K-State is next week. Stewart Mandel thinks this Kansas team is capable of finishing ahead of Texas, after all, so who am I to argue? (For real though, that is completely psychotic). Cyclones by a sweaty 9. 4-1 (1-1).
October 8: vs. Kansas State (-0.5)
I’ve been desperately waiting for the burden of expectations to finally be on the Wildcats when this game rolls around, and it is finally here! It feels like K-State is a media darling, and I love that. I love that we’re putting all the eggs in the Adrian Martinez basket. That is absolutely fine and normal and will not backfire. For a matchup that’s essentially a tossup, I think this is going to be a strangely comfortable win in which Jirehl Brock outshines Deuce Vaughn because, you know, #Brocktober. Cyclones by 8. 5-1 (2-1).Embed from Getty Images
October 15: @ Texas (-10)
When it’s finally time to say goodbye to Texas, we’ll go with Cyclones-by-a-million. Until then, I’m convinced that Texas is aiming to spend every waking moment proving to the world that they belong in the SEC, for whatever that actually matters. I’m picking Texas to win the Big 12, and they will illustrate why in this game. A simple truth here: The Longhorns have an elite talent at the three most important offensive positions. As of this moment, Quinn Ewers and Bijan Robinson are top-8 in Heisman odds. No other Big 12 player is. Texas by 17. 5-2 (2-2).
October 29: vs. Oklahoma (-13)
Oklahoma is being left for dead, and I’m willing to bet they are hyper aware of that. But I’m still skeptical of being 13-point home dogs here given [gestures at OU’s entire offseason]. OU has not covered 13 points in this matchup in 7 years. Both teams will be fresh off of bye weeks. But the unknown of how Brent Venables and Jeff Lebby and Dillon Gabriel and these new-look Sooners will operate is just enough to scare me out of an upset. I don’t know what that floor looks like, but the ceiling is in the stratosphere. Oklahoma by 3. 5-3 (2-3).
November 5: vs. West Virginia (+6)
This is a great spot for Iowa State to absolutely paste whoever is on the schedule, and especially West Virginia. This will be Homecoming, it will have been 4 weeks since the Cyclones won a game, and there’s a reasonable chance Neil Brown is no longer the Mountaineers’ coach at this point in the season. It’s also the 49ers bye week, so I love the idea of Brock Purdy being in attendance for this. Can I put in a request for a night game? Cyclones by 20. 6-3 (3-3).
November 12: @ Oklahoma State (-10.5)
I am delighted to report former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has taken his talents to Ohio State. It’s asking a lot for Iowa State to blow out WVU and then go to Stillwater and win for just the 2nd time in 20 years, but maybe a different and weird thing like Hunter Dekkers against a Derek Mason defense is just different and weird enough to make this a really good game. Spencer Sanders is back, by the way. I don’t know how that’s possible. OSU by anywhere from 3–7 points for the 8th straight year. 6-4 (3-4).
November 19: vs. Texas Tech (+3)
This is where I’m going to lose friends. I just cannot shake the horrifying notion that last year’s game in Lubbock was actually way closer to what we should expect Texas Tech to be going forward with Joey McGuire — aggressive and fun and annoying. SP+ has this as a virtual tossup on a neutral field. I have both teams at 6-4 coming into this game, which will probably say more positively about the Raiders than it will the Cyclones. It just feels bad, and I’m picking this one based on that bad feeling. Skip to the end of this article to see exactly what this win did for Texas Tech… TTU by 4. 6-5.Embed from Getty Images
November 26: @ TCU (-4)
You can once again say I’m playing the odds here — this time that Iowa State will grab a 7th win in one of these final three games. I’m going to give them the W here. Aside from his first year in Ames, Matt Campbell has never been held to 6 regular season wins as a head coach. In a desperation spot where I think both teams need to finish on a high note, I’ll bet on us. Side note: TCU fans are amazing and Fort Worth is an incredible place to catch a game. Cyclones by 3. 7-5 (4-5).
Projected Final Standings
*Tiebreak rules have been applied
- Texas 9-3 (7-2)
- Texas Tech 7-5 (6-3)*
- Oklahoma 9-3 (6-3)*
- Baylor 8-4 (6-3)*
- Kansas State 7-5 (5-4)
- Oklahoma State 8-4 (5-4)
- Iowa State 7-5 (4-5)
- TCU 6-6 (4-5)
- West Virginia 3-9 (2-7)
- Kansas 2-10 (0-9)