The Iowa State Cyclones will be in search of a third straight bowl game this season. ISU finished 6-7 in 2012 after falling to Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl and while the Cyclones don’t appear in any of the preseason polls their schedule does.
“We are excited to be ranked in the top 10 for the fourth straight year, certainly the top 10 I am referring to is strength of schedule, where we have been sixth twice. three and number one in the country. That’s a challenge that our kids have been very aware of and excited as they approach every single day of practice,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
Rhoads has led Iowa State to three bowl games in his four years as head coach. Cyclone fans have responded. “For the third straight year we have set season ticket marks,” Rhoads says. He says the Cyclone fan base has been recognized around the country for the support they provide.
To keep the bowl streak alive the Cyclones will depend upon a host of new faces. Eleven starters, including six on defense, are gone from last year’s team. He says their youth is very apparent as they have the least amount of returning starters in the conference, and he says that shows on the practice field.
Despite being young Rhoads says the goals remain the same, win a bowl game and win more than three conference games. He says they won’t back away from the goals because of the youth, he says the team knows they are young and will push forward.
The Cyclones will need to navigate and unusual scheduled that includes two off weeks in September as well as back to back Thursday night games. “Whether that benefits us or not, time will tell,”Rhoads says. “We have a plan. We have a plan for the two weeks, for the 12 days for the 9 days, every one of the first six games is a different type of preparation. Certainly we have a we have plan for that.” Rhoads says.
There are a lot of positives surrounding the program right now but plenty of room for improvement. The Cyclones have not finished with a winning record since Rhoads’ first season as head coach.
Junior center Tom Farniok says they need to win more games and be more consistent. He says the worst thing is losing games that they felt they truly had a chance to win. Senior running back James White says it is time for the program to take the next step.
“We need to win a bowl game or championship, that’s what we need to do,” White says. He says one thing they have in their goals is to finish games.
For the first time in several years there is no question who will be the starting quarterback on opening day. Sophomore Sam Richardson will direct an offense that features depth at running back and a young receiving corps. “It’s nice knowing the situation that you’re going to be in, knowing that you are going to take the field with those first guys. It’s exciting if anything, that makes it a little bit easier knowing that I will be in that situation,” Richardson says.
Iowa State opens August 31st against UNI.