Heading into tomorrow afternoon's game, it feels strange to say, but there's a feeling of optimism around Ames. There really shouldn't be. Kansas is the lone undefeated BCS team, while Iowa State is in last in the Big 12 North. Kansas has a high powered offense, as well as a top defense. Iowa State has struggled to put up points for most of the year.
So why should we think Iowa State has a shot at all?
The Clones head into Lawrence on something called a winning streak - a yet unfamiliar term in Ames - after an 11 point win over Kansas State and a 3 point win over Colorado. Kansas beat the same teams by 6 and 5 respectably. So it's fair to think that the teams aren't that far apart. Sure, Kansas blew out Nebraska and Toledo, two teams that beat Iowa State, but I think to say that the current Cyclones probably fare better against the Rockets and Huskers.
Kansas will also likely come into the game wound tighter than a jacket across Mark Mangino's back. With BCS #2 Oregon falling last night to Arizona, Kansas is the de facto #2 - a dangerous spot to be. It's hard to believe that the Jayhawks aren't looking ahead to Missouri or the Big 12 Championship, because, really, why should they be scared of a team with losses to Kent State, Toledo, Northern Iowa and Nebraska. Of course, Iowa State has beaten just as many teams that are ranked right now as Kansas.
Ever since the Texas game, Iowa State has been a different team. I don't know what it was about that ass-whuppin that kicked Iowa State into gear, but some decent football followed. ISU put the fear of God into Oklahoma, hung with Mizzou every step of the way on the road, a two-possession win over Kansas State and a come from behind win over Colorado. No longer are we the laughingstock of the Big 12.
A turnover margin in favor of Iowa State gives them a chance to be in the game. Kansas has an epic offense, but the Cyclones have stymied both Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel - at least to the extent that the two can be stymied. What really matters is if the ISU offense can keep up. In what will be the last game of both Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe's careers, wouldn't it be nice to send the two out on one of the highest of highs?
Maybe this Saturday can tell us if Chizik has really righted the ship. With a McCarney coached team, I'd have to wonder if we could get blown out. Now, Chizik has already proved himself as a rather competent gameday coach who can apparently even adjust the space-time continuum (Oklahoma and Colorado games) if things are not to his liking. ISU has never beaten a team ranked any higher than 7th. If things are really changing, maybe Iowa State has a chance.
Really, now, why the hell not? We've seen so many top ranked teams fall this season, including to teams with losing records. ISU has been playing football like at least an average team as of late. Tomorrow is a classic trap game for Kansas. ISU is a team with nothing left to lose but a chance to play spoiler.
Sometimes, things can break just right. Maybe tomorrow will be one of those days.