Iowa State is coming off a 3-9 campaign in 2015, but it could have been a lot better. The Cyclones had four defeats where they were tied or had the lead in the 2nd half.

With a 8-28 record over the last 3 years, Iowa State decided it was time to part ways with head coach Paul Rhoads. While Rhoads was an excellent motivator, he struggled getting in recruits.

The Cyclones did a nice job replacing Rhoads, by bringing in Toledo head coach Matt Campbell. In his 4-year stint with the Rockets, Campbell compiled a 35-15 record. One of those was a double-overtime win against ISU last season. Though his most impressive win was last year’s 16-12 win at then No. 18 Arkansas.

Campbell takes over a Cyclones team that hasn’t posted a winning Big 12 record since 2000. They haven’t won more than 3 conference games since going 4-4 in 2005. It’s going to be interesting to see just how far he take this program.

Last Season
Big 12
Record
ATS Record
Over/Under
Points For
Points Against
2-7 (9th)
3-9
5-5-2
5-7
25.0
32.7
2016 Schedule
DateOpponentSpread (Est.)Win Chance
9/3Northern Iowa
9/10@ Iowa
9/17@ TCU
9/24San Jose State
10/1Baylor
10/8@ Oklahoma State
10/15@ Texas
10/29Kansas State
11/3Oklahoma
11/12@ Kansas
11/19Texas Tech
11/26West Virginia
Estimated Wins: TBD

The Cyclones do have a decent shot at posting a winning non-conference record in 2016. Something they haven’t done since going 3-0 back in 2012. They get both Northern Iowa and San Jose State at home.

The other being a road game at Iowa. While the Hawkeyes are clearly the more talented team, ISU has won 3 of the last 5 in the series. Including two straight in Iowa City.

After playing 5 conference road games in 2015, the Cyclones get 5 Big 12 home games in 2016. The key for ISU will be overcoming what figures to be a tough start.

Iowa State has to play 3 of their first 4 conference games on the road. All coming against teams in the upper half in TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas. The lone home game during this stretch coming against Baylor.

Things get a lot more favorable down the stretch run. The Cyclones get 4 of their final 5 games at home. They also have a great shot in their road game against Kansas. The only game where they don’t figure to have a decent shot at winning is at home against Oklahoma.

Roster Breakdown

The Cyclones were able to move the football in 2015, but struggled to find the end zone. Iowa State’s averaged a respectable 408 ypg, but managed just 25.8 ppg.

While the offense only has 5 starters back, there’s reason to believe they will be even stronger in 2016. A big part of that is Campbell’s offensive background. ISU also has two key building blocks coming back.

Those two being sophomore running back Mike Warren and junior wide out Adam Lazard. Warren was the Big 12 Freshman Player of the Year. He rushed for 1,339 yards and 5 touchdowns (5.9 yards/carry). Lazard led the team with 56 receptions for 808 yards and 6 scores.

They also get back junior quarterback Joel Lanning, who started the final 5 games. However, it’s unclear if Lanning will remain the starter. Campbell added in three potential replacements. He added former Georgia recruit Jacob Park, Oregon State transfer Kyle Kempt and true freshman Zeb Noland.

The big question mark surrounding the offense is the offensive line. Iowa State’s only returning starter up front is junior right tackle Jake Campos. The only positive here is Campbell did wonders last year with Toledo, who had to replace all 5 starters. If he can work his magic with ISU, the Cyclones are going to surprise some teams.

Iowa State’s struggles on defense have been a big reason for their 8-28 record the last 3 years. They have allowed 32+ ppg in each of the past 3 seasons. On the bright side, the best of those 3 came last year and 8 starters are back.

Iowa State made big strides against the run in 2016. A big reason for that was the play of juco transfer Demond Tucker at nose guard. He was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. He will be back to anchor the middle of the defense and the talent overall looks much better up front.

At linebacker the Cyclones get back all 3 starters from last year. Though it’s likely one of those 3 will move to a reserve to make room for juco transfer D’Andre Payne. This is as strong as ISU has been in the middle of the field in years.

The Cyclones have 3 more starters back in the secondary. This unit wasn’t great last year, but should benefit from improved play up front. Keep an eye out for sophomore corner Brian Peavy. He led the team last year with 82 tackles and two interceptions.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
Big 12 Championship Odds
Playoff Odds
National Championship Odds
3.5
+13500
N/A
+300000
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Season Predictions

As much as Cyclone fans loved Rhoads, there’s a buzz around the program with Campbell now in charge. Given what he accomplished at Toledo, it’s hard to blame them.

He has an outside shot at getting this team to a bowl game for the first time since 2012. ISU could easily win at home against UNI, San Jose, Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia. That would leave them just one upset away from the magical 6-win mark.

I’m excited to see what Campbell will do in his first year, but I’m not quite ready to call for a 6-win season. I have the Cyclones going just 2-7 in the Big 12 and 4-8 overall.

2016 Projections
Big 12
Big 12 Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
9th
2-7
4-8
OVER 3.5
More College Football Predictions
Big 12 Conference