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Iowa State: Dream and nightmare scenarios

With a nod to Pat Forde's annual March Madness dream and nightmare scenarios piece, we've come up with the dream and nightmare scenarios for every Big 12 team. Of course, reality will fall somewhere in the middle. But imagine a season in which every single possible domino fell into place. And likewise, if all that could go wrong, well, did.

We continue the series with the Iowa State Cyclones:

Dream scenario

After battling nagging injuries throughout his career, Sam B. Richardson finally shows the quarterback he can be when healthy. The combination of the league's most experienced quarterback and a physical, talented receiving corps provides coordinator Mark Mangino with the pieces to pull the strings on Iowa State’s most lethal offensive attack since Seneca Wallace.

The Cyclones shake off their past FCS troubles and wax Northern Iowa in the opener to set the tone for their comeback season. They beat Iowa for the fourth time in five years, rout Toledo and avenge last year’s low point by smoking Kansas.

Defensively, Demond Tucker is a revelation, wreaking havoc up front in ways the Cyclones haven’t seen in ages. The cornerback-safety duo of Nigel Tribune and Kamari Cotton-Moya proves formidable, too.

Too amped from their 4-0 start, the Cyclones lay an egg in Lubbock. But they quickly recover from their first loss to reclaim their past status as giant-killers against top-ranked TCU. Richardson slices and dices the Horned Frogs with his arm and his wheels, and Allen Lazard turns virtually uncoverable in the second half. A bomb down the sideline to Lazard gives Cole Netten the chance to win the game in the final seconds with a 52-yard field goal. The attempt ricochets off the right upright, but bounces through, giving Iowa State the upset of the year. The crowd rushes the field, and athletic director Jamie Pollard happily pays the fine for it. The next day, Iowa State appears in the top 25 for the first time in a decade.

Two weeks later, the Cyclones take down another program from the Lone Star State, this time paying Texas back for its controversial win in Ames two years ago. The officials can’t save the Longhorns this time around, as the Cyclones roll by three touchdowns.

Iowa State finishes the regular season 8-4, then trounces Texas A&M in the AdvoCare V100 Texas to reach nine wins for the first time since Y2K.

Paul Rhoads is named Big 12 Coach of the Year. Nebraska and Iowa both go 5-7. Steve Prohm takes the Cyclones to the Final Four.

Nightmare scenario

Richardson tweaks his hamstring running to beat the bell on his first day of class, and is never right the entire season. The running back rotation is a mess. Tucker, it turns out, is just another lineman.

The Cyclones once again no-show their opener, and fall to an FCS opponent for the third straight year. The next week, Iowa runs up the score, emptying out Jack Trice Stadium by the fourth quarter, except for those donning black and gold.

The Cyclones fight back to 2-2. But the winning stops there.

Embarrassing losses to TCU and Baylor precede another Texas debacle. Jerrod Heard rallies the Horns from a double-digit second-half deficit, giving Texas the chance to win by going for two on the game’s final play. As Heard scrambles, his knee clearly touches the ground before he stumbles into the end zone. Officials, however, don’t see it, and the replay booth inexplicably claims it doesn’t have enough video evidence to overturn the conversion. Rhoads justifiably goes ballistic in his postgame news conference and is slapped with a $50,000 fine -- the largest in Big 12 history.

Iowa State finishes 2-10, forcing a coaching change. Nebraska upsets Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. Prohm misses the tournament. Hickory Park changes ownership and goes to an all-vegetarian menu.