OPERATION: BOWL ELIGIBILITY

Alright, So the Bye Week has officially come to a close, and it's time to face the new and improved Big XII schedule. Let's take an early look at the next segment of the season, a grueling six-game stretch through the Southwest Conference and the Border War participants.

Sat, Oct 1:  vs. #17 Texas

Sat, Oct 8:   @  #15 Baylor

Sat, Oct 15:  @  Mizzou

Sat, Oct 22: vs. #14 Texas A&M

Sat, Oct 29:  @  Texas Tech

Sat, Nov 5:  vs. Kansas

If Iowa State is going to achieve bowl eligibility this year, they need to go at least 2-4 against this group, but it's not inconcievable to think that Iowa State could be playing for their magical 6th win on November 5th against Kansas.

Depending on which Iowa State team shows up on a given day, there are no unwinnable games on this list, just some very, very hard ones. Suddenly, Texas coming into Jack Trice stadium has huge implications for both teams. Still, of the rated teams during this stretch, this game is probably the most winnable. Iowa State is healthy after the bye week (Jantz and Osemele are reportedly back to 100%) and still riding a wave of confidence after closing out the road win against UConn, and Texas' signature win thus far is against a BYU team that may not be as good as previously thought. Sadly, Garrett Gilbert will not be helping the Cyclones again this year, as he will be out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

Gone is Mack Brown's long time OC Greg Davis, who's revolutionary Horizontal Offense was a big part in the Cyclones jumping out to a 14-3 lead last year. He has since been replaced with Bryan Harsin, who was the OC Boise State prior to this season. Iowa State probably won't have the element of surprise again this year, but with the Red River Shootout looming next week against a #1 Oklahoma team, I honestly wonder if Texas might be peeking ahead to next week already.

The next game, at Baylor, will most likely be a shootout, with Robert Griffin III picking on our short CornerBacks, and Steele Jantz shredding the laughable Baylor defense. There will be fireworks, upwards of 100 points, and at least one person in Floyd Casey stadium will spontaneously combust after realizing that the ISU-Baylor game may actually have some serious Big XII implications. I think the Cyclones have a better chance of beating Texas this year, but to get a win against any of the ranked Texas schools would be a huge boost to a potential post-season game, and as long as Baylor doesn't have a defense, ISU has a chance in this one.

To have their best chance at being bowl eligible, Iowa State needs to win at least one of their next three games. If they can't topple Texas or Baylor, the Battle for the red-and-gold-colored Telephone Trophy suddenly becomes very important for the Cyclones' post-season hopes. (Not to mention, it would look great sitting next to what's left of the Cy-Hawk trophy. The easiest three teams remaining on the schedule are probably Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Kansas, but Mizzou is probably next on that list. A win in Columbia this year would be Iowa State's first since Seneca Wallace was under center in 2001.

 

The high point (read: hardest game) of this stretch will be on Oct. 22, when we play Texas A&M for what will probably be the last time. (Excluding a future random bowl match-up.) Any time you grow worried that your hatred of your in-state rival borders on obsessive, or that the continued obsession with our marching band is weird, look to College Station and despair not, for we are not the insane ones. There are people with bigger inferiority complexes than us, and a large percentage of them are present and wearing maroon jerseys every Saturday at Kyle Field. No matter who wins this game, expect at least one S-E-C chant. If A&M somehow loses, expect the Cyclone faithful to return the S-E-C chant, this time dripping with sarcasm and derision.

The last two games of this stretch are also the two most winnable games. After having  played three ranked teams in four weeks, the Cyclones get a reprieve at Texas Tech, and then at home against Kansas. Tech had problems with a not-very-good Nevada team, and Kansas had obvious problems defending Georgia Tech's mobile quarterback and option attack.

None of these games will be easy, because in the new and improved Big XII, nothing is easy. If Iowa State can pull out a win from somewhere in the first four games, they could easily be playing Kansas for the chance to go into the Bye Week with bowl eligibility and a 6-3 record. If not, going at least 2-4 would give us a chance to get to the post-season during the first week of December at Kansas State.

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