Football at Iowa State has come a long way since the days of being perpetually near the bottom of the Big 12. Since Matt Campbell became the head coach, the Cyclones have continued to improve with each passing offseason, and last year they came within a game of playing Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship.
Despite losing two big offensive stars from last season, the Cyclones look to move forward once again in 2019. They were voted third in the Big 12 media’s Preseason Poll, and return 2018 freshman phenom quarterback Brock Purdy, along a lot of experience elsewhere.
Iowa State’s strength of schedule will no doubt factor into their ability to continue improving on their 8-5 campaign from a year ago. Below we take an early look at next season’s lineup for the Cyclones and offer some thoughts on how many wins and losses are likely in Campbell’s fourth year (Also be sure to check out discussion of Iowa State’s most important game this season on the Ten12 Podcast, hosted by our own Chris Ross and Phillip Slavin).
2019 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
AUG 31 – Northern Iowa
SEP 14 – Iowa
SEP 21 – ULM
SEP 28 – at Baylor
OCT 5 – TCU
OCT 12 – at West Virginia
OCT 19 – at Texas Tech
OCT 26 – Oklahoma State
NOV 9 – at Oklahoma
NOV 16 – Texas
NOV 23 – Kansas
NOV 30 – at Kansas State
The pattern for Iowa State under Matt Campbell has been to struggle early on, and then look like one of the most dangerous teams in the nation by November. This year, the Cyclones could make progress as a program by starting out 3-0 in the non-conference – something that hasn’t been done in a while – and they have a real shot to do so.
Iowa State opens the season with FCS Northern Iowa, a team that actually handed Campbell his first loss as the head coach in Ames (UNI won 25-20). The Cyclones have come a million miles since then, and this is a game they should control from whistle to whistle even if the offense doesn’t light up the scoreboard.
The other contest against an in-state opponent comes when Iowa State takes on the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Cy-Hawk Trophy, which is awarded annually to the winner of the rivalry. Campbell has yet to beat the Hawkeyes, and Iowa has won the last four straight. Most preseason publications have Iowa ranked in the Top 25, and in all likelihood they’ll be 2-0 when they roll into Jack Trice Stadium.
Home field advantage will be on the side of the Cyclones this year, who took Iowa to overtime the last time this game was in Ames. In addition, Iowa State probably benefits from have a bye week before this rivalry contest.
The Hawkeyes will be hosting Rutgers that Saturday, so the Cyclones can do some scouting and watch Iowa get what should be a pretty comfortable win. If Campbell’s group is really a Big 12 dark horse in 2019, this will be the best chance he’s had as Iowa State’s head coach to win the Cy-Hawk Trophy
The Cyclones get all three non-conference games at home, so they’ll still have that advantage when they host the University of Louisiana Monroe, a team from the Sun Belt Conference that got bowl eligible last year for the first time since 2013. ULM is winless against Big 12 opponents (0-11 to be precise), and you shouldn’t expect them to get the first one here, as Iowa State should be favored to win by multiple touchdowns in this game.
The Cyclones were 6-3 in the Big 12 last season, and improving on that record would put them in a good position at a conference championship berth.
To start conference play, the Cyclones have three of four games on the road. They travel to Baylor, West Virginia, and Texas Tech, squads Iowa State beat by an average of 13 points each last year.
Their first conference game against the Bears in Waco will shape the impression of whether or not Iowa State can compete for a Big 12 title. The Cyclones haven’t lost to the Bears since 2016, and they’ll likely be favored to win this one once again.
Iowa State gets the benefit of hosting TCU, who was ranked fourth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, the following week after playing Baylor.
That projects to be a defensive battle, especially since the two squads have scored an average of 26 combined points the past two meetings and both are expected to have stout defensive units this year. If Iowa State can top the Horned Frogs in Ames, it’ll be the third time they’ve been victorious over TCU since Gary Patterson’s team joined the Big 12.
Two of their other home games – against Texas and Oklahoma State – will be tough contests as well. The Pokes went 3-6 in the Big 12 last year, but they normally have some of the best talent in the conference. Not to mention, they’ve been the only school to put up at least 40 points on the Iowa State defense these last two years.
If Texas lives up to the hype surrounding them headed into 2019, their game in Ames could have championship implications.
Matt Campbell has yet to beat Texas since he started coaching in the Big 12, and even if the Longhorns aren’t undefeated entering this contest, in all likelihood the Cyclones will go into this one as underdogs. At the same time, though, this game has a high probability of being a night game in Ames, and those types of contests tend to be bad news for the visitors favored by Vegas going in.
As of now, the team which projects most definitively as a loss for Iowa State is the tilt against the Sooners in early November. That game is in Norman, and both teams will be coming off a bye week. Of course, Iowa State upset the Sooners the last time they played Oklahoma at home, and this could very well be a matchup of ranked teams when the game rolls around. Still, it looks a little more favorable to the Sooners right now.
Getting Kansas for their last home game of the season would appear to give Iowa State an advantage, but they’ll probably do fairly well against that team, whom they’ve outscored 72-3 over the past two years. Iowa State’s road trip to take on the Wildcats – dubbed “Farmaggedon” – could be a potential loss, especially if the Cyclones aren’t focused on the task at hand.
PREDICTED WINS: 8-9
This prediction feels like it’s definitely low-balling what exactly the Cyclones are capable of in 2019. If they take another step forward from what they were last year, the schedule sets them up well with home games against Iowa and Texas. Of course, Iowa State usually struggles early, and there are plenty of potential slip-ups on the road for them in September and early October.
The absolute floor for this team is probably seven wins, given that Matt Campbell’s done such a good job of laying a solid foundation in Ames. Likewise, if Iowa State is able to answer some of their questions on offense and live up to their preseason billing as potentially the best defense in the league, the schedule will give them the opportunity for double digit wins.
An upset over Texas or Oklahoma – who are both projected to make it to the Arlington in December – would probably be necessary to make that happen. Even without wins over those squads, however, it’s entirely reasonable to see the Cyclones as a nine win team this season.