Updated: Sep 4, 2021
Last week I announced my decision to make Iowa State Cyclones my team of the year for 2021. Many teams came to mind including, their current rivals for the Big 12 Oklahoma but there was only one winner for me.
It began when I started watching tape on a few of their players, Breece Hall, Brock Purdy & Charlie Kolar. All of which are highly talented and will be names you will hear a lot this season heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. The next big winner was their jerseys. I'm a sucker for good merch, the black jerseys remind me of UCF, but I love the red and white offerings too.
Once I dived into their previous records, it was screaming a team that had gone through more misery than success. The couple of interactions I've had with Cyclones fans, you can tell this has been a long time coming and they are very much enjoying the success Matt Campbell's team are giving them on the field.
I want to run through a few of the standout players to keep an eye out for this season and my predictions at this early stage of how I think they end up.
Players To Watch
I couldn't start anywhere else. There is a huge pool of talented running backs in college football heading into 2021 and far superior level of backs heading into the NFL Draft in 2022 compared to 2021. None more so than Hall, coming off a season that saw him finish with the most rushing yards in FBS, he heads into his Junior with a lot of expectation that he could be, one of the top backs taken.
I really enjoy watching him, he's a beast who just finds a way to reach the end zone. In two seasons he already has 33 total touchdowns to his name and will be heavily relied on if the Cyclones are really going to push for that Big 12 Championship title.
There was a lot of buzz around Purdy heading into last season. Many believed he would be the next candidate to make the leap. The potential was there from the 2019 season where he contributed 35 total touchdowns. The Cyclones had a disappointing start to the season losing to Louisiana Ragin Cajuns by 17. They edged out TCU before gaining national focus again after beating Oklahoma by 7. Then came the defeat to Oklahoma State.
Purdy had some nice moments, although it seemed to many in the media he was a little inconsistent. He went on to have a solid campaign in the second half of the season leading the Cyclones to a rematch with Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship. Unfortunately despite a tough battle they fell just short and mistakes seem to cost them. Purdy contributed to 3 interceptions in that game. It feels like the national hype around him has seemed to evaporate. This doesn't at all mean he's not a very good quarterback. I generally enjoyed seeing him lead this offence from the tape i saw last year. It will be interesting to see if Purdy comes back stronger from that Big 12 game and if so could help guide this team not just to another Big 12 Championship game but to the College Football Playoffs.
He's 6ft 6, a safe pair of hands and arguably one of the best tight ends in college football. Give me a big tight end all day. He's been a standout in this offence for the past couple of seasons and always pops up in the big spots. Expect to see Charlie Kolar's name mentioned when it's time for the NFL Draft, he's certainly in most experts top 3 at his position and I think another good campaign could put him in the conversation as the best prospect going into the NFL at tight end.
If you read my article on players to watch (wide receiver edition) then you will already know this guys name. He really grew into this offence last season and is set for a big role heading into this year. A big bodied receiver which really supplements well with Kolar. He shows a lot of positives on tape in regards to his catching ability. One area he needs to show more is in the red zone, catching more touchdown passes but everything is in place for him to remain a big part of this offence and is a player i'm not hearing enough buzz about.
I'm a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, after many years of seeing no pass rush whatsoever, these past two seasons have brought me nothing but joy seeing my guys put pressure on oppositions quarterbacks time after time and putting their ass on the ground. Will McDonald IV is fast becoming the master of this at the college level. He was the sack leader last season with 10.5 sacks, he also recorded 2 forced fumbles. He will be very much looking to repeat this success in 2021. Once again if he manages to perform to this level for another season expect to see him name at the top of draft boards come the end of the season.
Can you imagine how great the Cyclones fans will be feeling if they manage to get to 8-0 after the West Virginia game? Iowa State have had a some issues with early games, Northern Iowa could be a test this weekend but really should be a win. It will really depend whether Iowa State already have one eye on their week 2 matchup with Iowa. Many feel this could determine whether they have a genuine shot at the playoffs. They need to win this if they are to be taken seriously. These games are always played hard. Iowa have a good team but many feel the Cyclones go into this the stronger team, but with any rivalry game this could be a tough one to call. If the Cyclones play to the level they can on a consistent basis, I generally only see 3 major hurdles for them. Iowa I've just spoken about, Texas and Oklahoma. Texas recently hired former Alabama offence mastermind Steve Sarkisian. Even though it might be a season or two before Texas are real contenders for the Big 12 by the time both meet in November, I will imagine the Longhorns will have found their way and certainly have the talent to beat anyone on their day. We all know about Oklahoma, they are the team to beat in the Big 12. The Cyclones beat them in the regular season but lost when it mattered most in the Big 12 Championship game last season.
I have the Cyclones finishing 10-2 overall in the regular season with them finishing 7-2 in conference. Texas will be stiff competition but I have them losing to Oklahoma and at least one of TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma State. Iowa State make the championship game with Oklahoma, but this time they get revenge and take the Big 12 title, not enough for a playoff spot but a top bowl game.