Updated: Jul 14
Head Coach: Matt Campbell
Offensive Coordinator: Tom Manning Defensive Coordinator: Jon Heacock Conference: BIG 12
2021 Record: 7-6 (5-4) (Lost to Clemson in Cheez-It Bowl)
2022 Non Conference Opponents: SouthEast Missouri State, Iowa, Ohio
Key Addition: LB Colby Reeder (Delaware)
Matt Campbell built Iowa State up from the ground, but the program has hit a plateau, as they have been unable to make that next jump to become an elite program. I had high hopes for the Cyclones last season, but they disappointed me big time and much of that is on Campbell as they had an extremely talented roster on both sides of the ball.
This season, they lose four year starting quarterback Brock Purdy and replace him with Hunter Dekkers, who in my opinion is the worst quarterback in the BIG 12. As a prospect, Dekkers was very solid, being a four star recruit. He has a big body and is very athletic, but the main downfall of his game is how inaccurate he is as a passer. In his first season as starter, I do not see him fixing that issue. Give it a couple years and he has potential to be a solid college quarterback, but as for this year, Dekkers does not have my trust. At running back, they lose Breece Hall, one of the best backs in Iowa State history. They replace him with Jirehl Brock, who is simply average. He possesses normal speed and is nothing crazy after contact. He totaled 174 rushing yards last season and posted a PFF offensive grade of 63.0. It would have been impossible to find another Breece Hall, so the Clones rushing attack was bound to regress, but they could have retooled much better than they did. At receiver they return one of my favorite players in the BIG 12, Xavier Hutchinson. Hutchinson has it all, a big 6’3 frame, smooth route running and sure hands. He put together a tremendous 2021 campaign where he caught five touchdowns, recorded 990 receiving yards and posted a PFF offensive grade of 83.9. With tight end Charlie Kolar gone, Hutchinson will receive more targets than last season and I expect him to reach the 1,000 yard mark with ease and possibly crack the All BIG 12 First Team. The receiving corps outside of Hutchinson is pretty pathetic though, as the only other returning starter is Jaylin Noel, who averaged an abysmal 6.9 yards per reception in 2021. The offensive line was decent last season, as they had no outstanding weaknesses or liabilities. They lose two starters, but I expect them to be decent once again, as they return their best piece, tackle Trevor Downing, who was a great run and pass blocker last season. Losing Breece Hall is the main reason I believe the Cyclones will regress on offense. With a first year quarterback and first year starter at running back, inexperience will haunt the Clones all year.
The Clones were elite on defense last season and the main reason was because of their frightening pass rush, led by defensive end Will McDonald IV. Many expected McDonald to regress after his monster 2020 campaign, but he followed it up with another great season, where he recorded 45 pressures and 13 sacks. McDonald in my opinion is the second best pass rusher in the conference, behind Felix Anudike-Uzomah of Kansas State. Outside of McDonald though, the Clones defensive line is riddled with question marks. Starting defensive tackle Isaiah Lee is below average at stopping the run and McDonald’s defensive end counterpart Blake Peterson only played a total of 65 snaps in 2021. The linebacking room makes up for the poor run defense on the line, as the Clones return two solid players in Gerry Vaughn and O’Rien Vance, who both were above average against the run in 2021. They also added Colby Vance, a Delaware transfer who was fantastic in every category throughout his career with the Hens. The Clones have one of the better linebacking corps in the BIG 12 and look for them to carry the run defense this season. As for the secondary, the Clones are going to be starting two first time starters at corner in T.J. Tampa and Myles Purchase. Neither got consistent reps in 2021, but when they did get on the field, they weren’t impressive. The safety corps returns Anthony Johnson Jr. who graded well overall in 2021, but still allowed a 124.4 passer rating when targeted, which is well below average. The rest of the group is very inexperienced, so expect Iowa State to have one of the worst secondaries in the conference. The defense will regress in 2022, but the linebacking core is very exciting and it is always a treat to watch Will McDonald terrorize opposing offensive linemen.
The Cyclones schedule will always and forever be tough, as they play for the Cy-Hawk trophy yearly versus in state rival Iowa. They get most of the elite BIG 12 programs at home, which could bring upon some upset opportunities, but I do not see them getting the job done as I expect their offense to rank in the bottom half of the conference. They close out the season 2-2 and fail to make a bowl game.
Record Prediction: 4-8 (2-7)
V SouthEast Missouri State: Win
AT Iowa: Loss
V Ohio: Win
V Baylor: Loss
AT Kansas: Win
V Kansas State: Loss
AT Texas: Loss
V Oklahoma: Loss
V West Virginia: Loss
AT Oklahoma State: Loss
V Texas Tech: Win
AT TCU: Loss