Midseason report: Iowa State

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Iowa State (2-4, 0-2): After starting the season on a two-win binge largely fueled by turnovers, the Cyclones have taken a step backwards with four straight losses. Coach Gene Chizik insists his team is better this season than its won-loss record indicates. The Cyclones played well for a half in losses against UNLV and Kansas, but couldn't sustain their strong play in either game. The Cyclones were lethargic last week in 38-10 loss to Baylor and cornerback Devin McDowell told the Des Moines Register that the Cyclones gave up. Not a good sign.

Offensive MVP, Austen Arnaud: Before a struggling performance against Baylor, Arnaud had asserted himself as an efficient playmaker with a knack for making big plays. He almost single-handedly directed the near-comeback against UNLV and passed for career-high totals of 268 yards and three TD passes against Kansas. But he must stay healthy because of the lack of an experienced backup.

Defensive MVP, Kurtis Taylor: One of the Cyclones' few defensive bright spots has been Taylor, a former special-teams player who has developed into his team's most consistent pass rusher. Taylor has produced 24 tackles and three sacks and leads his team with eight tackles for losses. He also returned an interception 48 yards to help spark the victory over South Dakota State.

What's next: A bowl bid is likely out of the question for the Cyclones, but their next two games will provide an immediate litmus test for Chizik and his program. They have winnable home games approaching against Nebraska and Texas A&M before a punishing finish that will conclude with three road games in their final four. Chizik is already building for the future with new starters at cornerback in Leonard Johnson and Ter'ran Benton. More could come as the season concludes.