Five questions for Iowa State heading into the season

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The season begins a week from tonight for Iowa State, which will open against South Dakota State to open Coach Gene Chizik's second season.

The Cyclones return seven offensive and seven defensive starters from last season's 3-9 team as they attempt to qualify for their first bowl since the 2005 Houston Bowl under former coach Dan McCarney.

Heading into the final week of practice, here's five major questions that Chizik needs to settle to get his team for the upcoming season.

1. Settle on a quarterback. Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates are hooked up in a tight battle. Chizik has said he expects both quarterbacks will play early in the season. The sooner he can settle on a starter, the better.

2. Find a featured running back. The Cyclones have a deep collection of similarly skilled players with J.J. Bass, Alexander Robinson and Jason Scales all back from last season. Look for all of them to play.

3. Develop playmakers at linebacker. Losing Alvin "Ace" Bowen and Jon Banks robbed the Cyclones of two of their primary defenders from last season. Michael Bibbs, Fred Garrin and Jesse Smith appeared poised to claim the starting positions.

4. Get some run-stuffers in the trenches. Not having Ahtyba Rubin and Bryce Braaksma will be huge losses. But former Arkansas transfer Michael Tate and 308-pound junior NG Nate Frere have emerged as the likely starters.

5. Who will replaces Bret Culbertson at kicker? Freshman Grant Mahoney was slated to be the kicker and 6-foot-4, 169-pound freshman Zach Guyer is set for kickoffs in the opener. But Chizik still could switch them around over the next few days.