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Predictions: Where will the Cyclones land in 2023?

Jacob Rice
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell watches his team play at the ISU v Ohio football game on Sept. 17, 2022.

The college football season is just one week away for the Cyclones and preseason expectations are all over the place for Matt Campbell’s young team.

Although the Cyclones finished 4-8 in 2022, there is plenty of talent on both sides of the ball to turn the tides in Iowa State’s favor. With the season just around the corner, it is time to make some predictions on how the Cyclones will fare and what the season may look like.

Record Prediction

Christian Royston – 5-7
Given the recent news surrounding the gambling investigation with the team, there is a good chance that the Cyclones sputter a bit while trying to find their feet. Although the team has made significant progress over the offseason and fall camp, replacing a handful of starting players is no easy feat.

Iowa State should still have a strong defense, which should win some games throughout the season, but with many questions on offense, a similar story to last season could play out again. I do not believe the Cyclones will improve much from their 4-8 season a year ago, although they could surprise us. Only time will tell.

Logan Shanks – 7-5
When taking a look around the Big 12, Iowa State has some aspects in common with many of last season’s top contenders. Teams like TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State lost key players on both sides of the ball with the ladder two teams having close games with the Cyclones last season.

When looking at Iowa State’s eight losses last season, six were decided by one score, and if you flip those around they finish the season with 10 wins and 7-2 in the conference record. While there will be some players missing that kept the games close for the Cyclones last season, the same can be said for many other teams around the Big 12.

Iowa State’s youth in key spots offensively could put the team at a disadvantage in back-to-back road games against Baylor and Cincinnati, but there should be optimism for the home games earlier in the season to help the team get adjusted. I think that with all the negative criticism surrounding the team the past few months, the best thing the team can do is put their heads down and prove the doubters wrong in significant games throughout the season.

Pavle Markovic – 4-8
There seem to be many reasons as to why the Cyclones have low expectations for this upcoming season. One of those is, of course, the ongoing gambling investigation within the program. Quarterback Hunter Dekkers and running back Jirehl Brock were big names caught up in the gambling investigation. Then comes the departures of players like wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson and defensive end Will McDonald IV who were also huge pieces to the Cyclones squad last season.

Another reason would be the expansion of the Big 12. Iowa State will have to face off against two new teams in Cincinnati and BYU at their respective stadiums which will make it a tough environment to play in as both teams are known to have big, loud crowds that show up for their teams.

As a whole, I do not see Iowa State making a lot of noise this season which is why I have them going 4-8 once again as they try to find their footing in a new and improved Big 12 conference.

Potential Upset Win

Christian Royston – Sep. 9 vs. Iowa
All the signs are pointing to a back-to-back Cy-Hawk win for the Cyclones. Iowa State has home-field advantage, which has proven to give the Cyclones a boost in the matchup. With the Cyclones coming off a win in last season’s meeting, momentum is definitely in their favor.

Iowa may have figured out its offensive struggles on the shoulders of Cade McNamara if he stays healthy. Iowa State on the other hand may have more offensive struggles than last season. All that aside, the Cyclone defense may be a star again this season and could shut down a young Iowa team.

Logan Shanks – Nov. 25 at Kansas State
In their last matchup with the Wildcats, the Cyclones lost by just one point and had the lead almost halfway through the fourth quarter. Kansas State will be without its top two ball catchers, starting running back and quarterback Adrian Martinez who all played a role in helping the team get to the Big 12 Championship game.

Kansas State sits just two spots ahead of Iowa State on 247 Sports recruiting class rankings and added only two more four-star prospects than the Cyclones. With key losses on both sides of the ball for each team, only time will tell how new starters will progress throughout the season and how things shape up for the regular season finale.

Pavle Markovic – Oct. 7 vs TCU
In the season prior, these two teams faced off in Fort Worth to end off the Big 12 season as No. 4 TCU clobbered Iowa State in the season finale, beating them by a whopping score of 62-14. The Cyclones were straight-up outmatched by that Horned Frogs team as they ended a disappointing season.

Now the Horned Frogs make the trip up to Ames in early October for another matchup with the Cyclones. TCU won’t be the same team as last season, as it had key departures in quarterback Max Duggan and wide receiver Quentin Johnston make their departures to the NFL.

Iowa State seems to have an upset win or two in them for this upcoming season, and I personally believe that one of those wins will come against the No. 17 TCU Horned Frogs at Jack Trice Stadium.

Toughest Matchup

Christian Royston – Nov. 25 at Kansas State
Given the point in the season when Iowa State has to travel to Manhattan, Kansas, to take on the Wildcats, this game could get ugly. Although the Cyclones kept the game close last season, losing by just one point, it was in Ames.

Kansas State ended the 2022 season on fire, finishing as the Big 12 Champs and playing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to end the season. Although the Wildcats are expected to take a slight step back, it might not be enough for Iowa State to play spoiler on the road.

Logan Shanks – Sep. 30 at Oklahoma
Regardless of where Iowa State sits after its first four games of the season, its first conference road game is not one to scoff at. Oklahoma has consistently put out NFL-caliber skill positions over the past decade and has no problem developing young talent.

Former UCF transfer Dillion Gabriel showed a lot of growth throughout his first year as a starter for Sooners, finishing the year with 3,168 yards and 25 TDs to just six picks. Gabriel also showed a comfortable presence when playing at home, and finished the year with a 4-2 record, 15 TDs and five interceptions in those games.

The Sooner’s defense forced three interceptions from Hunter Dekkers in last season’s matchup and compiled eight tackles for loss in their 27-13 win at home. They return their top two sack leaders and linebacker Danny Stutsman who led the Big 12 in total tackles with 124.

Pavle Markovic – Nov. 18 vs Texas
The Cyclones will be hosting the current No. 11 ranked Texas Longhorns in their final home game of the season on Nov. 18. By this time during the season, the Cyclones season will already have been dictated.

Needless to say that Texas always will come at you no matter what. There is a reason why so many have Texas as one of the best college football programs in the nation. They are always able to produce talent and showcase it at a high level.

Iowa State kept it close last year in Austin as they only fell to the Longhorns by three points in a 24-21 loss. The Cyclones even had a chance to win the game last season if not for some errors made by the team. Now that Texas quarterback Qwinn Ewers has an even bigger motivation to stay as quarterback No. 1 following the addition of big named prospect Arch Manning, I expect him and wide receiver Xavier Worthy to have a monstrous performance come mid-November.

Bowl Game Odds

Christian Royston – Very little chance
This might be a pessimistic take, but Iowa State’s bowl game chances aren’t looking good. Coming off a 4-8 season, expectations aren’t too high for an Iowa State team that still has a lot of youth.

I think the Cyclones have a chance to improve this season, despite the many setbacks. I also think there’s too much room to grow for the Cyclones to make it to a bowl game. They might make a run late in the season, but that six-to-seven-win mark might just be out of reach this year.

Logan Shanks – On the bubble
Head coach Matt Campbell sits in a familiar spot when he took the job back in 2016 with little expectations after a below .500 season. Five bowl appearances and a pair of AP Big 12 Coach of the Year nods later he has continuously rolled out a solid team despite the noise from the outside.

While I have the Cyclones finishing one game over the minimum recruitment for a bowl game, there of course is a chance that things go south quickly. I believe the team will have to make a push toward the end of the season after some mid-season road struggles and could turn some heads amidst the off-the-field issues.

Pavle Markovic – Slim to none
With all that is currently happening to this program involving the gambling investigation while also not having key contributors like the Cyclones did last season, there’s just no world where in a more competitive Big 12, Iowa State actually makes a bowl game this season.

This year is meant to try and see what they have got with the new recruits and the players left over. I believe that there will be some glimmers of hope during the season that could lead to something greater in the near future, but it won’t be enough to carry this squad into a bowl game.

Hot Takes

Christian Royston
It may not be too hot of a take, but I think JJ Kohl will have a breakout back half of the season. With Hunter Dekkers likely being out for an extended period, a new starting quarterback has to take over his reps. Although Rocco Becht has shown some promise, the future of Iowa State lies in the hands of Kohl.

Kohl is still raw, considering he is barely out of high school, but he has all the talent in the world. If Kohl gets some quality reps early in the season, I have no doubts that he will figure out how to succeed on the college level pretty quickly. Once the Big 12 season is in full swing, expect to hear more and more from Kohl as the weeks roll on.

Logan Shanks
Sticking with my optimistic point of view for the upcoming season, I believe that Iowa State will start the season undefeated through four games. I think the first two matchups against UNI and Iowa will set the tone for the rest of the season, and if the Cyclones get things rolling, what’s stopping them from continuing that momentum?

Iowa State’s only road game in its first four games will be against Ohio in week three. The Cyclones have an undefeated record against the Bobcats in their eight matchups, which includes seven wins at home.

Pavle Markovic
A hot take that I have about this upcoming season for Iowa State, is that I think that wide receiver Jaylin Noel could be a name to watch for the Fred Biletnikoff Award.

Over the past two seasons that Noel has been at Iowa State, we’ve only seen improvement from him. Last season he finished with 60 receptions, totaling 572 yards and three touchdowns.

Especially now that he has the chance to become wide receiver No. 1 following Xavier Hutchinson’s departure to the NFL, I believe that Noel has the ability to thrive this year and break out as one of the biggest named receivers in not only the Big 12 but the entire country.

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  • D

    Dennis | Aug 22, 2023 at 10:01 am

    “Hunter Dekkers likely being out for some time.” How about permanently? I’m picking the Clones to go 6-6 with a mix of losses you don’t expect and a couple of upsets (inc Texas).