MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
The top-ranked Saints s ... »
This is a 12-to-1 countdown of Iowa's most-appealing football games this season. No. 1 is the most-appealing. We started with No. 12 Ball State. Purdue was No. 11, Northern Iowa No. 10. All previous posts in this countdown can be found here.
No. 9 — Iowa State (Sept. 13 in Iowa City)
This is only the second year I've done such a countdown, but I'm guessing this is the lowest I would have rated this matchup in many years.
The reason is simple. Iowa State was 3-9 last season, and it's hard finding more wins than three for the Cyclones on this season's schedule. I said hard, not impossible.
That isn't to say ISU won't win four or more, but who would it be a solid favorite to defeat other than Toledo at Jack Trice Stadium? Three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State in Ames? That's the last thing from a cakewalk opener.
Kansas in Lawrence? West Virginia in Ames?
By the way, Toledo went 7-5 last year and outgained Missouri by three yards when it lost there, 38-23. The score was 24-23 in the third quarter. Missouri, as you may recall, was really good.
Anyway, let's say the Cyclones defeat North Dakota State in their opener, then take down Kansas State in Ames the following week. They're 2-0 coming to Iowa City and then ... then this is a heck of a more-compelling game than it is right now.
Until then, excitement is tempered. Unless you're Iowa State's team, anyway. Or Iowa's, which ought to be 2-0 when this game rolls around.
The fact is, there isn't a form chart for this series. The odd, strange and curious have been known to happen. A 44-41 triple-overtime ISU win in 2011 followed by a 9-6 Cyclones victory in 2012? After the Hawkeyes pummeled Iowa State the previous two years?
Last year it was Iowa by 27-21, but the game in Ames wasn't that close. It was 27-6 with five minutes left. The Hawkeyes rushed for 218 yards to ISU's 59. The Hawkeyes had the ball for over 38 minutes. Captivating, the game wasn't.
That was a recurring theme with Iowa State football once the Big 12 season got rolling. After a controversial home loss to Texas that will forever sting and a one-score defeat to Texas Tech, the Cyclones were on the very wrong end of a 71-7 score at Baylor. Then they lost 58-27 to Oklahoma State. And 41-7 to Kansas State. And 48-10 to Oklahoma.
But the last two weeks? A 1-9 team beat Kansas 34-0 on a frigid night in Story County, then went to West Virginia and downed the Mountaineers in triple-OT.
So, it's possible Iowa State could come to Kinnick Stadium with a 4-game winning streak. Hey, it's not like new ISU offensive coordinator Mark Mangino never found a way to beat K-State when he was Kansas' head coach.
As for the extracurriculars involved in this series, I'm burned out on it. I keep hearing Iowa fans the series should be halted so the Hawkeyes could play other nonconference teams. But guess what? It's not happening! And who doesn't want it to happen? Iowa. (And Iowa State.)
If the Big Ten ever does go to a 10-game conference schedule, the first thing to happen would be me fainting from disbelief. If, that is, the 12-game regular season stayed as it is.
But the second thing that would happen is Iowa squashing the ISU series unless the Cyclones agreed to come to Iowa City every year. Which they wouldn't.
The College Football Playoff could alter a lot of attitudes about scheduling. Especially if a team doesn't make the Final Four (can we call it that?) because it played The Citadel or Lamar or South Dakota.
Iowa, should it ever be in a position to vie for a CFP (will we call it the CFP?) berth, would be more than safe having played Iowa State. It's the Big 12, it's a Power 5 conference, it's a game every person on the selection committee would understand you scheduling.
And while selection committee member Tom Osborne didn't take many lumps from the Cyclones when he coached, Iowa State was the winner the last time the two teams met in Lincoln, in 2009.
That's when Nebraska and Missouri and Texas A&M were in the Big 12. And Rutgers was in the Big East. And Maryland was in the ACC.
'Twas a simpler time.