Opinion: Iowa State schedule superlatives

Iowa State will have to take care of business in 2021, with plenty of regular season matchups offering unique stakes and storylines.

College football is almost here.

The Iowa State Cyclones are set to take the field against Northern Iowa on Sept. 4 in Jack Trice Stadium with a preseason top-10 ranking for the first time ever. With that ranking in mind and a whole season to play in front of them, the Cyclones will have to take care of business on their schedule.

The three writers covering the Cyclones this fall — Matt Belinson, James Powell and Sam Stuve — went through Iowa State’s 2021 schedule and picked out game superlatives for some of the season’s 12 regular season matchups.

Belinson: Most anticipated game (Sept. 11 vs Iowa)

I struggled with this pick because the Cyclones’ game vs. the Oklahoma Sooners on Nov. 20 carries so much preseason weight. But for my money, the most anticipated game in 2021 has to be the return of Iowa Corn CyHawk series. Iowa State has aspirations of making it back to the Big 12 Championship and this game has no significance toward that whatsoever, however, it’ll be a true test to see if the Cyclones are for real this year as a national contender.

As the Cyclones enter the season, there’s a real possibility No.18 Iowa is the only top-20 opponent it will face before its trip to Norman, Oklahoma, in late November. If that holds true, knocking off a top-20 team early in the season and a rival you haven’t beaten since 2014 could not only inch the Cyclones toward a top-five ranking, but could give them the momentum they need the rest of the season.

Powell: Potential trap game (Nov. 26 vs TCU)

I think a game that could easily give the Cyclones some trouble, and potentially see Iowa State fall is their game against TCU on November 26th. Yes, this game is in Ames, and yes it’s the last game of the season, but that’s precisely what the makings of a trap game are.

TCU has had an odd last couple of years, and no one knows what to really think of them coming into 2021. They return nine starters on offense and eight on defense. They have had more great seasons than not in the last decade or so, and they’re due for a breakout year.

Another key indicator of a trap game is a game that comes after a very important one. Coming back from a game in Norman that could decide the fate of the Big 12 would certainly qualify. A short holiday week combined with all of these other factors means that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Iowa State lose this game.

Stuve: Most telling game (Nov. 20 at Oklahoma)

I think this kind of goes without saying, but the Iowa State-Oklahoma game has the potential to be the biggest Big 12 game this season. Oklahoma comes in at No. 2 in the AP Poll while Iowa State is No. 7. This game should be good. These two teams have played close games in the last few meetings and I expect nothing less.

For Iowa State, I think this game could show whether or not Iowa State is a College Football Playoff contender or not. Iowa State and Oklahoma are likely going to be fighting neck and neck for the Big 12 Regular Season crown and this game, in my opinion, will likely serve as a preview of what the Big 12 Championship Game could be. While Iowa State could lose this game and still be in the playoff, winning this game would go a long way in the playoff discussion.

Powell: Most predictable (Oct. 2 vs Kansas)

The most predictable game this season is the October 2nd tilt against Kansas.

Iowa State is 10-1 in their last eleven meetings with the Jayhawks, with their only loss coming in 2014. None of the games have been that close as of late, either, with an average margin of victory of 23.2 points since Matt Campbell took over.

With this team having dreams of at least a 10-win season, and this game being in Ames, it should be of no concern to the Cyclones.