Holbrook: Where does GameDay rank in the top moments of the Matt Campbell era?

Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell and Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz shake hands before the start of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game Sept. 8, 2018.

Trevor Holbrook

If you haven’t heard yet, ESPN’s College GameDay is coming to Ames for the Cy-Hawk game.

GameDay started visiting universities across the U.S. in 1993, but Iowa State is making its first appearance on the Saturday morning program.

If we jump back in time and think about where Iowa State football was at merely four years ago, we’ll remember a 24-0 win over Texas and that’s about it for a lackluster 3-9 season.

After that season, Matt Campbell arrived in Ames and began the turnaround. While Campbell probably has bigger things to focus on than GameDay, the event marks another checkpoint in Iowa State’s rise.

I’ll dive into which five dates saw the biggest impacts Campbell has brought to a historically mediocre program.

1. Dec. 9, 2018

No game was played on Dec. 9, but the Cyclones won big time. Campbell publicly agreed to a contract extension through 2024 and boosted the budget for his assistant coaches.

While Campbell leaving for a more prestigious job will still be a talking point after every successful season at Iowa State, the extension provides hope for Iowa State fans that Campbell’s in it for the long run and will don the cardinal and gold (or black) for many years to come.

2. Dec. 30, 2017 and Dec. 28, 2018

Alright I lied, it’s actually six dates. The end of December opened up a pair of bowl berths for the Cyclones the last two seasons. Prior to Campbell, Iowa State had some bright moments, but it failed to generate much consistency.

Since the Dan McCarney era, Iowa State didn’t see back-to-back bowl appearances with a .500 or better record until Campbell came to town (Paul Rhoads coached Iowa State to a pair of bowls in back-to-back seasons, but Iowa State finished 6-7 each time).

Iowa State appears to be setup for a third-straight bowl, cementing the Campbell-era consistency even more.

3. Sept. 28, 2017

I remember sitting in a chemistry lecture the week of Iowa State’s 38-31 upset over Oklahoma and receiving a text with a Cyclone Fanatic thread featuring rumors about former quarterback Jacob Park.

Park struggled the week before against Texas in the infamous ‘Bugle helmet’ game, but I remember thinking, “Iowa State’s going to lose by 40 without him.”

I was wrong, to say the least, after Kyle Kempt emerged and shocked the Sooners. This game jolted Iowa State and prefaced the second top five win that season with a 14-7 win over then-No. 4 TCU.

4. Oct. 13, 2018

Similar to the Oklahoma upset, Iowa State faced a lot of questions entering its matchup with then-No. 6 West Virginia and Will Grier. The Cyclones sported a 2-3 record, and some freshman named Brock Purdy just propelled the offense against Oklahoma State, but was he legit?

Turns out Purdy was pretty legit, and he outgunned Grier by tossing the ball for 254 yards, three scores and one interception compared to Grier’s 100 yards, one touchdown and one pick.

That’s right — Grier, a Heisman hopeful at the time, barely hit 100 yards and struggled the entire night. If there were any questions about the Cyclone defense, they were answered that night.

Oh yeah, David Montgomery also scampered for 189 yards and a score, but that was much lower on the list of surprises.

Lastly, the environment inside Jack Trice Stadium presented an unreal atmosphere and made the experience that much more memorable.

5. Sept. 7, 2019

News broke that GameDay is headed to Ames, as we all know now.

Whether each team’s fans want to admit it or not, the Cy-Hawk game is a really big deal for the two schools every year, and GameDay magnifies that even more.

Iowa State’s consistency the past two seasons paired with a handful of wins over ranked teams put the Cyclones on ESPN’s radar. Meanwhile, Iowa’s been a solid, quality team every year it seems for as long as I can remember, making the matchup a good fit for the game of the week.

The fact GameDay is coming to Ames isn’t so much about the actual show, but it showcases how far Iowa State has come since some of the dark days of football.

This moment could jump up these rankings with a win over the Hawkeyes, or it could be another letdown in Iowa State history.

Despite all of Campbell’s success at Iowa State, he’s failed to knock off the in-state rival. To stamp his first Cy-Hawk win this season could ignite Iowa State’s season, as Iowa is no slouch this year, turning in strong defensive and offensive performances this season.

If Campbell sends the Hawkeyes back to Iowa City with a loss, I’m sure this week will go down as many Cyclone fans’ top moment in the Campbell era.