If before the season, you predicted the biggest Big 12 game on the last Saturday of October would be No. 4 TCU at No. 25 Iowa State, raise your hand.
Hmmmm. It seems a few of you actually have a hand in the air. Please see Mr. Pitino, he’ll hook you up for your lie detector test.
Neither the Cyclones nor the Horned Frogs were ranked in the pre-season. TCU’s ascension is less surprising because of Gary Patterson’s track record of following a flop with a flip. The Frogs were a disappointing 6-7 last season, just the third losing season in Patterson’s tenure. The other two losing seasons were followed up with 11-1 and 12-1 records.
And Patterson was Nostradamus regarding how the Cyclones would fare this season.
“After watching them at the end of last season, I told everybody at (Big 12) media days that they would be a team people needed to pay attention to,” he said on this week’s coaches’ teleconference. And I’ve not been wrong.”
There was no follow up regarding Patterson’s suggestion for winning PowerBall numbers.
The Cyclones are 5-2, ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2005. TCU’s visit to Jack Trice Stadium is arguably the biggest game in school history. If Iowa State wins, it will be in first place in the Big 12 standings.
Coach Matt Campbell is in his second season and the Cyclones’ story is refreshing beyond its record. Iowa State has a quarterback (Joel Lanning) playing middle linebacker and a walkon quarterback (Kyle Kempt) committed to Cincinnati, then went to Oregon State, didn’t play for two seasons and then wound up in Ames.
Since stepping in for Jacob Park, who is on a leave of absence resolving a personal health injury, Kempt has led Iowa State to a massive upset victory at Oklahoma, a walkover defeat of Kansas and last Saturday’s 31-13 victory at Lubbock.
Kempt is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and has seven touchdowns to just one interception. He has been playing point guard and distributing passes to a group of receivers who wear extra large. While 6-5 senior Allen Lazard is an All-American candidate and leads the team in receptions, 6-foot-6 sophomore Hakeem Butler leads the team in receiving yards. Six players have 20 or more catches.
“They’re like a basketball team,” Patterson said. “They do a great job of creating space and getting open. “Coach Campbell has put them in situations where they can do what they do best.”
When Campbell took over as coach at Toledo in 2011, he was the youngest coach in FBS at age 32. Now a grizzled 37, Campbell suddenly finds himself on the hot list of “big-time coaching candidates.”
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit created quite a stir last Saturday when he reacted to the Cyclones’ victory in Lubbock by suggesting any schools looking for a new coach to skip the search firm fees and just head straight to Ames. Herbie then doubled down and responded to an Iowa State fan’s Tweet by responding “Enjoy this team and this coach, in particular, while you can. He’s gone.”
(Historical side note: In 2007, on the morning of the Southeastern Conference championship game, Herbstreit reported that LSU coach Les Miles would leave the Tigers to become coach at his alma mater, Michigan. If Campbell is still Iowa State’s coach in 2018, Herbstreit with be 0-2; which is approximately his completion percentage as the Buckeyes’ quarterback. We kid, we kid.)
Iowa State fans were understandably angered that Herbstreit was acting as Campbell’s pseudo agent. So was Campbell.
“They don’t have anything to worry about,” Campbell said to Cyclones fans in an interview with The Des Moines Register Monday. “The frustration part of comments like that are that it discredits this university and this football (program). … We’ve got just as much opportunity to do elite things as anybody in college football and I think we’re proving it one day at a time right now.”
The Cyclones went 3-9 in Campbell’s first season and the program has largely played a spoiler role in the Big 12. In 2011, a double-overtime defeat of No. 2 Oklahoma State knocked the Cowboys out of the BCS title game. Iowa State’s upset of OU put the Sooners in must-win mode for the rest of the season. A victory over TCU would do the same for the Horned Frogs.
“That’s why we came here … to build this program and we haven’t even started yet,” Campbell said. “All we’ve done is laid a foundation to this thing.”
Old home week
After its narrow escape from Austin that kept its long-shot hopes for the College Football Playoff alive, Oklahoma State faces another tough road trip with Saturday’s game at West Virginia.
Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen made an off-season change similar to the one Cowboys coach Mike Gundy made in 2010. Gundy gave up his offensive coordinator duties by hiring Holgorsen and Oklahoma State has thrived with Gundy being in an overseer role. Holgorsen went the same route when he hired Jake Spavital to run the WVU offense.
“I’m comfortable doing it,” Holgorsen told SI.com’s Bruce Feldman. “I feel like I’m managing things better, focusing on game management, time management, recruiting more, doing all of the personnel decisions, working with all the special teams.”
Oklahoma State leads the FBS in total offense and passing offense and is third in scoring. West Virginia is fifth in total offense, fourth passing offense and scoring. A typical Big 12 scoring fest could be possible.
That’s just offensive
Since Kansas sealed the deal on the end of Charlie Strong’s career at Texas, the Jayhawks and the Longhorns have had a connection that irks the Bevo out of Burnt Orange fans. Unfortunately, both schools shared a Saturday that only strengthened the bond.
First, let’s start with Kansas. The Jayhawks were shut out for the second consecutive week but failing to crack the scoreboard doesn’t fully explain how inept KU’s offense has been the last two weeks. In the last 120 minutes of “action” the Jayhawks have run 108 offensive plays for a total of 127 yards. That’s 1.2 yards per play.
In its 43-0 loss in Fort Worth to TCU Saturday, Kansas finished with 21 total yards, a Big 12 record for fewest yards allowed. That’s also the fewest yards gained by an FBS team since at least 2000. Of the Jayhawks’ 49 plays, 15 resulted in negative yardage.
The offensive ineptitude slightly obscured the fact that Kansas lost its 44th consecutive road game. The NCAA record is 48 by Idaho State from 2006-2014.
Texas wasted a stellar performance by its defense in a 13-10 overtime loss at home to Oklahoma State. After starting the second half with a solid drive to take a 10-7 lead, the Longhorns’ offense ran 25 plays and gained 36 yards. UT failed to generate momentum, gaining a total of just 85 yards on 27 first-down plays.
The Longhorns’ lone touchdown was set up by a 90-yard completion. Excluding that play, Texas averaged 2.87 yards per play and was 3-of-17 on third downs.
Three and out
- Just when you think Kansas can’t fall any deeper than rock bottom … about an hour after being smothered by TCU Saturday night, the Jayhawks lost their only Texas recruit and only quarterback from the 2018 recruiting class. Clayton Tune, a three-star prospect from Hebron High in Carrollton, Texas, announced he had backed out of the verbal commitment he made in February.
- Texas is 3-4 for the fourth consecutive season. Saturday’s 13-10 overtime loss to Oklahoma State continued a disturbing trend. Since 2010, the Longhorns’ record in one-score games in Austin is 4-11. The Longhorns’ three losses to top 10 teams this season have been by a total of 11 points. Dating back to last season, eight of UT’s last nine losses have come by a total of 36 points.
- Oklahoma, for the first time since 2012, has played four consecutive games decided by single digits – Baylor (49-41 win), Iowa State (38-31 loss), Texas (29-24 win) and Kansas State (42-35 win). In 2012, the Sooners won their last four regular-season games by single digits.
Kansas State plays at Kansas Saturday. K-State coach Bill Snyder has defeated the Jayhawks 21 times. The Jayhawks last 12 coaches have combined to beat the Wildcats 21 times.