Midseason review: Iowa State


Record: 3-2 (0-2 Big 12)

Iowa State's season began with drama and a dream. Three fourth-quarter comebacks and an overtime win over rival Iowa had the Cyclones undefeated and 3-0 riding a fantastically named quarterback in Steele Jantz and an improving group of skill position players. A pair of 23-point losses to Texas and Baylor have followed, but Iowa State is still in the hunt for a bowl game -- its second in three years under Paul Rhoads. But it's going to be tough with a nine-game conference schedule and dates with four ranked teams ahead. Linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott have continued their excellence, and any path to a bowl game likely will require a win at Missouri on Saturday and wins at Texas Tech and Kansas to follow.

Or does Rhoads have another shocking upset up his sleeve to help the Cyclones sneak into the postseason?

Shontrelle Johnson had high hopes before the season, but he's been banged up. RB James White has emerged and played well, as has WR Darius Reynolds, who has six touchdowns and 488 yards receiving.

Offensive MVP: Steele Jantz, QB. I nearly gave this to Reynolds, but I'll go with the early-season playmaker who is still learning to take care of the ball. He's shown the ability to make plays with the game on the line, and he rallied his team back for three wins early in the season. He's also proven to be one of the most mentally tough passers in the league. On the road against UConn, he threw interceptions on three of his first four passes, but came back and got the win. There aren many passers who can't do that. He's thrown for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions, while also running for 148 yards and two more scores.

Defensive MVP: Jake Knott, LB. The Cyclones' "tough nut" is back and excelling as expected. His 59 tackles are 13 more than any player in the Big 12, and he's making his case as the Big 12's top defender. He ranks 13th nationally in tackles after his 18-tackle day against Baylor, and he has 3.5 tackles for loss and has forced a fumble.