Iowa State Cyclones

Otherwise-rotten 2020 has a winning glow at Iowa State

2020 will be recalled as That First-Place Season for Cyclone football

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy celebrates after the Cyclones' scored late in the fourth quarter to take a 23-20 lead
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy celebrates after the Cyclones’ scored late in the fourth quarter to take a 23-20 lead they kept against Texas Friday in Austin, Texas. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

Find a lumberyard, Iowa State fans, and knock on all the wood you can find.

Of the 65 Power Five football teams, 49 have had games postponed or canceled because of COVID-19. The Cyclones have played all nine of their scheduled games so far, and a good thing it’s been for them. Knock on wood.

No matter what happens this day forward, they will have earned their first spot in a Big 12 championship game. They will have a first-place finish in the conference’s regular-season standings.

Had they not played Oklahoma or Texas, many would have called it a tainted title. Iowa State defeated both.

We’ll all forever remember 2020 for being a rotten set of 366 days. While football is as trivial as a thing can get, at least this year will have a warm and fuzzy compartment in Ames and throughout Cycloneland. The last time ISU won a football title was 1912 when it went 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. That was the year the Titanic ran into a little ice.

It was the year Woodrow Wilson unseated William Howard Taft as president. Wilson got 435 electoral college votes. Taft got just 8, and didn’t even suggest there was voting fraud.

The last Cyclones football championship came six years before the Spanish Flu pandemic ravaged the world. This year, 100 FBS games have been postponed or canceled because of COVID-19. Iowa State has played all its scheduled contests, and since Big 12 play started, has played them well.

The Cyclones were behind from the end of Texas’ first possession until they scored to go up 23-20 with 1:25 left. They trailed 10-0 in the first half, 20-10 in the second half. When they needed to go 69 yards for a touchdown late in the game, they did it. When they needed to keep Texas from scoring on its final possession, they did it.

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They didn’t dominate the statistics. They didn’t dominate the game. They just played like winners, poised and clutch.

The work isn’t done, as the Cyclones are the first to insist. Before the Dec. 19 Big 12 championship in Arlington, Texas, Iowa State can secure the outright regular-season title next Saturday at home against West Virginia. If, that is, both teams stay out of the coronavirus’ reach.

Oklahoma, the Cyclones’ likely opponent for the league’s automatic spot in a New Year’s Six bowl, couldn’t play at West Virginia Saturday because of the virus. That made five Big 12 teams that have had their schedules disrupted.

Wisconsin has played only three of its six scheduled games to date. Ohio State missed a second one this fall when it couldn’t play at Illinois Saturday. Tulsa, a Top 25 team, has had more games called off than it has played.

Coaches Nick Saban of Alabama and Ryan Day of Ohio State tested positive for COVID-19 within the last few days. Even the wizards of the superpowers can’t hide from it. Yet, Iowa State has. Iowa, too.

The Hawkeyes are one of those 16 Power Five teams that have played every game. They’re on a four-game win streak they could extend to seven or even eight before this thing is through if they get their games played.

Let’s say the Hawkeyes beat Illinois, Wisconsin, and whomever the Big Ten puts in front of it on Dec. 19. That isn’t far-fetched. That would be a 7-2 record, seven straight wins, and a ticket to a pretty good bowl. Assuming there are good bowl options left by then.

What a bizarre year for the planet and American football. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz voluntarily and happily got into snarky sniping sessions with both P.J. Fleck and Scott Frost within a 14-day period. If that isn’t an apocalypse-is-nigh sign, none exist.

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If Ferentz has a wrestling match with Illinois Coach Lovie Smith at midfield next Saturday in Champaign, I’m going into hibernation until spring and will strongly urge you to do likewise.

On second thought, let’s see when and how this season comes to a conclusion. We’ve got a regular-season game in Ames in December that means a lot. Seek lumber, not slumber.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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