Gridiron: UNI Bad Cop

Chris Wolff

It’s the beginning of the 2015 college football season. It’s only natural for fans to be optimistic about the Cyclones chances this season, and why not?

They have a relatively easy first five games: Northern Iowa, Iowa, Toledo, Kansas and Texas Tech. By all accounts, fall camp went great.

Sam Richardson has weapons spread all around him with the most hyped receiving core in recent memory. The defense should be boosted by heralded additions on the defensive line and an experienced secondary.

There are question marks, of course. A lack of experience at the running back position and uncertainties at the linebacker position is cause for concern. Still, things seem to be trending upward.

But hasn’t Iowa State been here before?

Fans fill Jack Trice Stadium with anticipation and confidence, only to get punched in the gut by an FCS team. Rewind to a 20-point loss to open the 2014 season at the hands of North Dakota State. Go back a bit further to Northern Iowa pulling out a 28-20 win in 2013.

North Dakota State and Northern Iowa are no slouches at the FCS level. North Dakota State has dominated the FCS ranks and Northern Iowa has formed into a top-10 contender year in and year out. That doesn’t matter. A Big 12 program is expected to win those games.

It’s no secret — the Big 12 is tough. Iowa State has struggled to compete in the conference in recent years, which makes it even more important for the Cyclones to cash in on the easier non-conference opponents.

For Iowa State, this is a real game. A winnable game for sure, but also a losable game. Sometimes the little brother lands a gut punch and Iowa State could be on the receiving end of that punch yet again.

Given the enthusiasm surrounding this season, partially due to a revamped stadium, the expectation of a high-powered offense, a favorable early-season schedule and the urge to see the football program show some sign of a turnaround, this punch could hurt the most.

Northern Iowa 28, Iowa State 27