Iowa State Cyclones

No. 23 Iowa State at Kansas State: The Big Analysis

New coach Chris Klieman has Wildcats playing familiar K-State football

Kansas State hosts No. 23 Iowa State in both teams' regular-season finale Saturday in Manhattan, Kan. (Original photo: Associated Press)
Kansas State hosts No. 23 Iowa State in both teams' regular-season finale Saturday in Manhattan, Kan. (Original photo: Associated Press)

AMES — My thoughts on Saturday’s regular-season finale between No. 23 Iowa State (7-4, 5-3) and Kansas State (7-4, 4-4):

Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State coach Chris Klieman is in a difficult situation — he’s tasked with replacing the only successful coach in the school’s history.

So far, he’s handled it extremely well, leading the Wildcats to a 7-4 record with one regular-season game left.

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell has been impressed with what Klieman has been able to do.

“You’re in two areas when you’re replacing a legend,” Campbell said. “No. 1, what he’s done for so long in one place is certainly powerful. No. 2, the positive about that is you’re inheriting an unbelievable culture. The kids understand work ethic, and toughness and hard work and how to win. Coach Klieman obviously knows how to win and he understands culture because he lived it and breathed it.

“He was probably one of the great hires in college football that would allow the transition to be a smooth as its been.”

Klieman was North Dakota State’s head coach for five years before he took the Kansas State job. While at NDSU, he won four FCS national championships.

“It’s a perfect match,” Campbell said. “When you watch Kansas State play on film, it’s almost verbatim of what you’ve seen for the last 10 years. They’re physical and tough on the offensive side of the football and defensively, they play as hard as anybody for four quarters. You’ve seen them continue to stay at the level they were at and continue to rise.”

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The Kansas State defense is the second best in the Big 12 and the offense has only turned the ball over 11 times — fewest in the Big 12.

“So much of what coach Snyder had built for so long at Kansas State has been so well respected from my end of it that those fabrics are things you hope to implement in this program,” Campbell said. “The consistency of playing hard and understanding winning in the margins is really important. Those are things that have been talked about for a long time there. And that stuff’s being emphasized with their new staff, which has championship culture from what they’ve done at North Dakota State.”

Iowa State Cyclones

Campbell and his team have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done at Iowa State since the mid-1970s.

Win eight games in three consecutive years.

Iowa State didn’t even win eight games in back-to-back years until last season.

“You can reflect back to where we were three years ago,” Campbell said of the 3-9 team he coached his first season. “The belief that didn’t exist in these walls and now to sit and watch our kids believe and be pained when we’re not playing our best and straining to be our best, culturally in every way, shape and form to become the best version of us.

“I’ve always said this, the winning and losing does take care of itself in a lot of ways. This has been a season where we’ve grown immensely.”

Iowa State scored a combined 30 points in its first two games against UNI and Iowa.

The Cyclones have scored at least 30 points six times since the first two games.

The defense continues to be among the best in the Big 12 — currently ranked third behind Baylor and Kansas State.

“We had eight wins last year and you’re always looking to improve,” offensive lineman Julian Good-Jones said. “We want to win eight in the regular season this year and finish it off right with a win in the bowl game to get to nine.”

Prediction

Iowa State 34, Kansas State 24

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The Cyclones are undefeated against new Big 12 coaches this season, and I think that continues Saturday.

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