I apologize for not posting more often this week, but it's been busy. This Saturday is a game a lot of Cyclone fans had circled at the beginning of the year as being the game where Iowa State had a chance to gain bowl eligibility. The day is upon us and the pre-season prognosticators were right. The circumstances of how the team got to this point and the status of their opponent, on the other hand, are things that no one could have predicted.
Even at the beginning of the season, it was relatively clear that this was going to be Dan Hawkins' last year in Boulder. The Buffs were decamping to the Pac12 and this gave them the perfect opportunity to start there with a clean slate on the coaching side of things as well. Allowing the Hawk what in essence was a "lame-duck" season would only serve to reduce the payout that the school had to give to him when he was inevitably shown the door. At the same time, his team continued to have faith in their much maligned Coach, only to watch the world go down in flames and blow up in their faces last week in Lawrence, KS.
It's hard, as a fan of college football, to not feel bad for Colorado players and fans. Truly, Iowa State was in virtually the same position, not so long ago. Where Cyclone fans are finally starting to believe that Paul Rhoads is reality and not some strange figment of their imagination, they've watched Colorado backslide farther and farther. Some of the more malicious Cyclone fans would be quick to point out that Colorado has kicked ISU when it was down many times. Let's be honest though, that's hardly an exclusive club and college football is about winning, not being merciful.This Saturday, the Cyclones hope to deliver one last closing kick in the teeth as a bon voyage gift to the Buffs.
Frankly, I'm terrified of the game.
To his considerable credit, Paul Rhoads has consistently won the games he "should" win, with the possible exception of Kansas State, but Colorado literally has nothing to lose at this point and is coming out under a brand-new interm coach. I don't like opponents who are backed into a corner, they're liable to do something bat-**** crazy.
Like win the game.
Enough doom and gloom, let's examine some of the things to watch for on Saturday.
More after the jump
Will Ben Lamaak Play?
Cyclone fans everywhere should be hitting their knees every night before bed asking that the
big. HUGE Center of the offensive line will play. The Offensive line is easily at least 40% better when he plays than when he doesn't. Obviously he doesn't protect the quarterback on his own, but he's the lynchpin, the leader, of the O-Line and the fate of the game could literally reside on the shoulders of that unit. Iowa State is a Running Team, and needs it's O-line badly.
Big Day For A-Rob
A-Rob has rushed for over 100 yards every time he's played Colorado, he'll need another big day if the Cyclones want to put away the game. ISU really needs to come out in this game and score points early and often, they can't afford to keep the game close, gasp their way over the finish line, and hope to win. The good news is that method of play has not been present since Paul Rhoads came to town. Last week the Cyclones played well enough to be on par with virtually any team in the Big 12. They need to continue playing at that level next year, and the key to that kind of consistency is to decisively beat Colorado right now. Next year it will be Shontrelle Johnson, but tomorrow A-Rob is still the man.
Can The Defense Blank Colorado?
In a word? Doubtful, but it's a goal that should be present in the minds of the defense. Exceeding even the wildest of expectations, the Cyclone defense has improved to be a force to be reckoned with. They got trammeled by Iowa, Utah, and Oklahoma, but they shook it off and moved on. That's impressive maturity. The three teams that trammeled the ISU defense should be used as a model for what they should do to teams like Colorado in the future. The time to start working on that is now. The Cyclones are not now (and may never be) an elite defense, but they can be good enough to compete against anyone, and they've come a long way this year.