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Three predictions for 2009 ISU season

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Most preseason predictions expect it's going to be tough for new Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads to pull his team out of the North Division cellar.

The Cyclones aren't bereft of talent with 15 starters including nine offensive starters and five of their six skill-position starters back from last season.

But the North Division will be unforgiving, giving them little room for error if they hope to make their first bowl appearance since 2005.

Here are three things I expect will happen with Iowa State this season.

1. Despite much fanfare during fall camp, quarterback Austen Arnaud will keep his starting job heading into the season. But I expect Jerome Tiller to get some playing time during the course of the season, giving Arnaud the opportunity to stay fresher after playing nearly every snap last season.

2. Iowa State's season will hinge on its first conference game. The Cyclones should be above .500 heading into their Oct. 3 opener at Arrowhead Stadium against Kansas State. It will be a critical game and perhaps determine who stays out of the North Division cellar during the rest of the season. And regardless of how that game plays out, it will be interesting to see what kind of job Rhoads does in picking up his team's confidence after that the first several conference games.

3. Bo Williams will earn the starting job at tailback by the Kansas State game. Although Alexander Robinson is one of the more versatile and underrated backs in the conference, Williams is a better downhill runner who should be able to provide the Cyclones with 15-20 carries per game if he's utilized in that manner. I look for Williams, a transfer from Florida, to become the Cyclone's featured back with Robinson becoming the Cyclones' third-down receiver/rusher as he better fills that role in ISU offensive coordinator Tom Herman's new offense.