Belinson: A season of uncertainty will provide clarity on where Iowa State stands

Brock Purdy lines up his target during the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game Sept. 14, 2019. The Cyclones lost 17-18.

Matt Belinson

Over the last handful of seasons for Iowa State football, the mantra has been: “It’s not if, it’s when.”

Columnists, reporters and loyal fans alike have been asking, and rightfully so, “When can the Cyclones reach the top of the Big 12 that Head Coach Matt Campbell has been orchestrating toward in his program rebuild since he first arrived back in 2015?”

Oh, how I miss 2015.

But, if you’re a Cyclone fan, 2015 and the years prior to it represented some mostly dark times when it came to the state of the football program in Ames. 

So now that we sit five years removed from the start of Campbell’s arrival, should fans expect what has been promised and calculated over the last five years: a trip to the Big 12 Championship?

I think the only answer is yes.

The Cyclones have undoubtedly been turned around in remarkable fashion by Campbell over the last five years, but now the time has come, in the most absurd season in the history of college football, for the Cyclones to reach their true potential and head down to Dallas in December and compete for a Big 12 title.

The Big 12 is not the fill-in-the-blank conference it usually is. Oklahoma should be seen as the favorite to win the conference yet again, but this year’s Sooners are not like the powerhouse teams we have seen in the last two to three years. Losing the offensive firepower they are accustomed to will make this Sooner team a much less intimidating foe than last year with NFL Draft picks up and down the roster.

With Kennedy Brooks opting out of the 2020 season due to concerns of COVID-19 and Tre Sermon transferring to Ohio State, the Sooners will be left with a big hole to fill in an offense that usually thrives with read-option packages.

So with the Sooners sitting in a less comfortable position than usual, the Cyclones have the perfect year and perfect amount of talent to eye for the throne of the Big 12. 

I think Iowa State is a very good team this year; honestly, I feel they are a top-15 team in the country based on the talent on the roster and the schedule that screams more wins than losses compared to years past. So, if the statement is true that the Cyclones are right on the cusp of reaching their goals, then isn’t this year looking to be one of their last shots with the roster they have?

The Cyclones walk into this season with a top-10 quarterback in the country, a tight end room loaded with experience and reliability, a running back who lit up the conference in the limited amount of games he played and a defense that is stacked from the secondary on down. 

So tell me why this shouldn’t be the year to get the job done?

Obviously, COVID-19 would be the number one answer to my question because one Saturday we could end up seeing a Cyclone team without Brock Purdy, Charlie Kolar or Mike Rose, and then the season for the Cyclones would be in major jeopardy, no doubt. COVID-19 could put a big “X” through this whole article if it wanted to. 

But for the sake of me continuing my rant, let’s assume Iowa State skates by with little to no positive cases that would remove big pieces from the lineup.

What would be stopping the Cyclones from getting to where they want to go?

From our most recent talks with Campbell and players, it sounds like the biggest answer is themselves. In the 2019 season, the Cyclones lost three games by a combined total of four points. This is a doubled-edged sword and serves both purposes for this argument.

One could say that Iowa State was so close last year, and after suffering close defeats time after time, 2020 will be their chance to correct those mistakes and not step on themselves. However, some would say the Cyclones will never reach their destination until they get out of their own way, a point Campbell and players have brought up before.

Campbell said the attention to details and winning the close margins has been the driving focus during the offseason for the Cyclones, but until the season begins, we won’t know if this year will live up to the hype.

A Big 12 title should be on the minds of Cyclone faithful once the season kicks off Sept. 12 at Jack Trice Stadium.

And if it doesn’t take place this year, then it might be time to ask “if” rather than “when” after all.