Sunday, November 28, 2021

Leverage

 It seems that each of the last four seasons have ended with rumors of Campbell's imminent departure. But given the current landscape, this might be the year it happens.

Several brand name programs- programs that have won national titles and could win more- are without a coach. Several of the assumed candidates have been locked up by their current schools with massive 10-year contracts. The pool of candidates who would please a fan base is suddenly small.

Coach Campbell may suddenly be the most attractive 'available' candidate.

CMC seems to be wired differently from most coaches, and doesn't come across as a ladder climber. But he also climbed one rung of the ladder to leave Toledo for Iowa State. Why would he not climb another?

He mentioned in an interview a few years ago that he had given "Stillness is the Key" to his staff to read one summer, which is an interesting choice of books. Much of the book harps on being in the moment, focusing at the task at hand, not looking ahead, concepts that fit into his coaching philosophy and you hear repeated by his players.

But a big section of the middle of the book talks about the folly of pursuing riches and fame, as both are fleeting and fail to satisfy. The moment you finish climbing one mountain your brain turns to the next challenge. 

It would be odd to embrace the part of the book that helps one be successful but ignore another part that warns of pursuing success in the hopes of finding happiness.

Perhaps the brand name jobs are becoming less of a goal for coaches. Each coach who signed on with their second or third tier school may have realized that they can have a good life at a place without "Championship or Bust" aspirations. Is $8 million a year worth it if you are being hung in effigy after a disappointing loss in year two? 

Campbell can drive a hard bargain if he wants to try and win a title. ADs who are desperate to appease their fan base will throw unimaginable riches at him this week. CMC may also use the moment to earn another pay raise for the staff, most of whom have coached for him for a decade. 

We will learn a lot about Campbell's priorities in the next few weeks.


Advantage

It's good to see our Cyclones exploit an advantage.

Every long run against TCU came on a cutback on a stretch play- three times to the left, and once to the right. Whether that tendency was noticed on tape of discovered in game, kudos for going to it again and again.

Sometimes if feels that offensive coordinators are trying to win a prize for cleverness from the Offensive Coordinator's Association rather than scoring points and winning games. Example- eight running plays get you First and Goal, so surprise the defense with three pass plays! Dumb. Keep using what's working.

Most turnarounds at football programs involve a core of recruits who dramatically raise the team's performance through ability or execution or both. The group that Campbell and Co. brought in were exceptional, and have claimed big sections of the record book as their own.

Now comes the hard part- finding players who can maintain the culture and continue to raise the bar.

Turnaround

Seven new players and a 6-0 start, playing tough defense and running an offense that uses each player's strengths. This team has learned a lot in only six weeks of practice.

The portion of the fan base that was grumpy at Jamie "hiring one of his buddies" is noticeably quiet.

While we don't expect more than 6 wins in the B12 this year, it will be fun to watch, knowing the Cyclones can win on any night that enough threes find the bottom of the net.

Carry on, fellas.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Good but not Great

 Welcome to the Good but not Great era of Cyclone Football.

As it becomes more clear that the 2020 season was an outlier, Cyclone fans need to come to grips with the fact that while the Campbell regime has improved the baseline for the football program, they are now merely above average in the Big 12. 

Compared to the previous 40 years of football, it's a giant improvement. But the gap between consistent winning and Consistently Great is another large step, one that may be harder than it appears.

We all need to enjoy the feeling that Iowa State could win each week, and celebrate every victory that does appear.

You never know when the ride will come to an end.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Shattered

 The Cyclone football program is broken in both the first half of seasons and first half of games.

Their September stumbles are well documented, and are a long term project.

Opponents have realized that the defensive scheme improves in the second half, so any hay that is going to be made needs to be in the barn at halftime. Teams with gumption and grit are burying the defense in the first half of late.

Football experts will have to break down if Iowa State isn't executing early or if teams are breaking out new material at the start of games, but the results of late have been sub-par, especially for a program with such high hopes in August. Perhaps the rest of the league adopting the principals of the the Cyclone defense has removed the exoticness of the scheme. 

2020 being an outlier looms larger with each passing week. Rats.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Hammers

 It was exciting to watch our Cyclones avalanche the Longhorns after halftime. The option pass to Milton to put ISU up 10 was an emotional back breaker for a fragile Texas squad that is definitely unsure of itself under the new staff. 

The 27-0 run in the second was a beautiful dismantling of a of a team loaded with both talent and money that doesn’t know how to properly leverage either.

While it would have been fun to make Texas endure a 25 degree day and sideways snow, (Nebraska 1988 comes to mind)  the mild day allowed Cyclone fans to be at a full lather when it mattered. Fun times.


Sunday, October 31, 2021

Margins

 Against OSU, odd officials calls ended up even, or at least were in situations that Iowa State was able to overcome. Against WVU, no such luck.

Given Iowa State's propensity to play close games, they are more susceptible to losing or winning based on one call. Unless the program is able find a way to increase its margin in games, we will all have to get used to more nail biters and the occasional shaft job.

Not that Cyclone fans have ever watched their team be beaten by the refs.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Front seat

The Cyclones are playing like they realize that they have little margin for error in their quest for a return to the B12 Championship game.

Finding a way to lose in Waco limits the paths to Arlington. One path is winning the road games that don't involve Norman, and last week's hit job in Manhattan should make one optimistic that they can also win in Morgantown and Lubbock. The remainder of the path is downing everyone who come to Ames. KU offered little resistance, but Oklahoma State was more than able to put up a fight. Iowa State is fortunate to have that game in the win column.

The short version is that Iowa State needs to win and Baylor needs to lose. Half of that equation is in Iowa State's hands. They may not be in the driver's seat, but they have squeezed into the front.






Monday, October 18, 2021

Steady

 Coming into the game with Kansas State, we knew three things about the Cyclones:

-They could avoid losing to an FCS team

-They could blow out teams in the bottom 10% of FBS

-They could find ways to lose against ranked teams.


Kansas State doesn't fit any of the above categories. They have the talent to be bowl eligible, but have weaknesses that may keep them from getting there. Would ISU find a way to win, or would they muddle along and try to win on the last possession?


The results were the reverse, as the Cyclones put the game away early, and prevented KSU from making it a game in the second half. That was enjoyable.


Oklahoma State will be a much stiffer test, and have been Kryptomite to Iowa State's October magic. But the performance in Manhattan makes a win against the Cowboys plausible.