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Iowa State Cyclones season preview

Previewing the 2014 season for the Iowa State Cyclones:

Key returners: TE E.J. Bibbs, C Tom Farniok, WR Quenton Bundrage, CB Nigel Tribune

Key losses: LB Jeremiah George, S Jacques Washington, S Deon Broomfield

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 6 vs. Kansas State; Sept. 27 vs. Baylor; Nov. 1 vs. Oklahoma.

Projected win percentage: 39.3 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 3 1/2 wins.

Instant impact newcomers: WR Allen Lazard, WR D’Vario Montgomery. Lazard has impact freshman written all over him. Ranked No. 148 in the ESPN300, Lazard brings terrific receiving skills in a big package at 6-foot-5, 208 pounds. While the true freshman Lazard has garnered plenty of attention, South Florida transfer Montgomery could be poised to make a major impact as well.

High point from 2013: The Cyclones’ final win was their best, topping West Virginia in a 52-44 triple-overtime thriller in Morgantown, West Virginia, to end the season. Quite frankly, Paul Rhoads' team had nothing to play for against the Mountaineers yet rattled off 17 unanswered points to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Coupled with its 34-0 win over Kansas the previous game, ISU headed into the offseason with back-to-back victories.

Low point from 2013: ISU’s trip to Waco, Texas, was a nightmare, as Baylor thumped the Cyclones 71-7 in mid-October. ISU’s narrow 31-30 loss to Texas ranks a close second, but a 62-point loss to a conference foe counts as one of the biggest lows in Rhoads' tenure.

Best-case scenario for 2014: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino sparks a complete turnaround of the Cyclones’ offense, helping ISU return to a bowl game this fall. Defensively, the Cyclones see a few unknowns step up along the defensive line, helping ISU secure a home upset against either Kansas State, Baylor or Oklahoma, and stabilizing a young defense with plenty of question marks.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: ISU’s defensive front simply does not have answers and becomes a weak link in the Cyclones’ squad. Teams take advantage of this weakness and, despite an improved offensive attack, the Cyclones cannot outscore teams resulting in a second straight bowl-less campaign.

They said it: “All credit to our kids, they continue to persevere. They continue to train Sunday through Saturday and finished with two victories and currently ride a two-game winning streak going into the 2014 season, and that certainly is what we're expanding and moving forward with.” — Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads