Schedule analysis: Iowa State

The Big 12's full schedule isn't out yet, but a few teams across the league have released their individual schedules. In no particular order, we'll take a look at them.

Next up: The Cyclones of Ames.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):

  • Sept. 3: Northern Iowa (7-5)

  • Sept. 10: Iowa (8-5)

  • Sept. 16: at Connecticut (8-5)

Home Big 12 games:

  • Oct. 1: Texas (5-7)

  • Oct. 22: Texas A&M (9-4)

  • Nov. 5: Kansas (3-9)

  • Nov. 18: Oklahoma State (11-2)

Away Big 12 games:

  • Oct. 8: Baylor (7-6)

  • Oct. 15: Missouri (10-3)

  • Oct. 29: Texas Tech (8-5)

  • Nov. 26: Oklahoma (12-2)

  • Dec. 3: Kansas State (7-6)

Gut-check game: at Baylor. The Cyclones are likely to enter their conference opener at 1-2 or 2-1, though 3-0 isn't impossible. Baylor and Missouri are probably the two best teams on Iowa State's schedule that the Cyclones have a real chance to beat, but the outcome against the Bears could give us a good indication of what to expect out of Paul Rhoads' team.

Good luck with that: Oklahoma. Last year, the Cyclones lost 52-0 in Norman. This year, the Sooners are even better and the Cyclones are adjusting to life without their two best offensive weapons. Oklahoma will be gearing up for what could be a monster showdown with Oklahoma State the next week, but does anyone want to bet that Iowa State is the team to end Oklahoma's mammoth 36-game home winning streak?

Snoozer: Northern Iowa. This ain't Kurt Warner's team anymore. The Cyclones rolled to a 27-0 win last year, and while it might not be as lopsided this time around, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone but Iowa State fans tuning in to this one.

Non-con challenge: Iowa. The Streak -- 17 quarters without a touchdown for the Cyclones -- ended in last year's game, but Iowa State still lost, 35-7. Iowa State hasn't won since 2007 and has just two wins since 2003. The past two seasons, Iowa has outscored their in-state rivals 70-10. Rhoads has done a lot for Iowa State, but one thing he hasn't done is compete with Iowa. Will that finally change?

Must-see date: Kansas State. This game might end up being irrelevant, or it might be for the right to extend your season. Last year's Farmageddon was an underrated game, and the 2009 game was decided on a blocked extra point. Both times, Iowa State came out on the losing end. Don't be surprised if both teams enter this game at 5-6 and play for a spot in a bowl game.

Analysis: The most obvious takeaway: What a brutal, brutal road schedule. Every road opponent was in a bowl game last year, and two played in BCS games. The Cyclones could realistically go winless on the road this year, but if they don't, wins are still going to be hard to come by. If Iowa State is going to get back in a bowl game, they'll have to get it done at home. That would require knocking off Texas in the Longhorns conference opener.

Rhoads' signature victories the past two seasons have been wins in Lincoln, Neb., in 2009 and the program's first win ever over Texas in 2010. The common thread among those two teams? Very, very poor offense. I don't see a real opportunity on this schedule for Rhoads to make noise with another shocking win. Beating Iowa would be a huge step, but far from shocking. The same goes for UConn. Texas tanked last year, but don't forget, the Longhorns were ranked and coming off a win in Lincoln over the Huskers when Iowa State came into Austin and won.

Iowa State joins Oklahoma State in yesterday's schedule analysis as one of the Big 12 teams with five road games in conference play, and every one will be tough. Iowa State isn't likely to be favored in any of them. I don't like Iowa State's chances to make a bowl next season, but then again, few did the past two seasons and the Cyclones did it in 2009 and nearly did it again in 2010. The Cyclones will have to find some offense and solid play from the quarterback spot, but we'll see if Rhoads can field yet another overachieving team.

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