After the first quarter of the season, I had the Cyclones at 3-0, but I wouldn't be surprised to find us 2-1. The Iowa game is just such a toss up that one never knows what will happen.
This second quarter of the season is interesting as well. It features a good test prior to conference play, a neutral conference game, and a road conference game against one of the best teams in the North:
Army: Although they weren't too hot last year, this is a team that could be bowl eligible. A majority of their team are upperclassmen, and they will return 12 starters from last year. The thing that troubles me a little is that Army runs an option oriented offense. As you probably remember quite well, our defense was horrible last year (especially tackling). If they are going to run sets where 3 running backs could potentially carry the ball along with the QB, I hope our defense stays disciplined and can wrap up the tackler. This will be Army's 2nd road game of the year, and I don't think they will be phased at all. Army typically knows how to keep it close, usually because they eat up so much clock on offense. If this was on the road, I'd be even more concerned. I give ISU the edge because they are at home, but I think it will be a close game.
Kansas State: This will be played at Arrowhead in Kansas City. I know a lot of people are really looking forward to this game, as am I. This is very much a toss-up game, at least when looking at the personnel. Obviously when games get underway we'll have a better idea. K-State has some of their weapons returning on offense like WR Brandon Banks, and they return a good portion of their starting offensive line as well. On defense, they were horrible last year, but they do return an outstanding DE in Brandon Harold. Also, they are returning most of their starting linebacking corps, and most of their secondary.
I have to think the combination of having a lot of returning starters on defense, plus a more organized coaching staff, will lead to an improvement on that side of the ball. Offensively, you can never be too sure when you're going with a new starting QB and starting RB. Honestly, I think that will hold this team back more than their fans may think. If you are going to be good, you can't have questions at QB.
With this particular game, I see it as very back and forth, but with ISU losing on a last second FG or TD drive. At this point in the season, I have ISU at 4-0. When has an ISU season ever consisted of us winning all the games we are supposed to and winning the toss-ups? Not very often. We're typically used to seeing us blow our chances down the stretch in close games. It's hard for me to sit here with a new coaching staff and say we'd be 5-0 at this point in the season, because things will probably go wrong. When I step back, I think 4-1 may be a little high as well, so I don't blame anyone for thinking 3-2 instead. I hope I am wrong about this particular game, because K-State is a winnable game, and I am tired of everyone in the conference piling on. Winning on a bigger stage against K-State will at least shut their fans up.
at Kansas: I have us pegged for a loss. There's not a whole lot to say about this game. I fully expect KU to compete with Nebraska for the Big 12 North this year. KU returns a lot of their playmakers like QB Todd Reesing, RB Jake Sharp, WR Dezmon Briscoe, and WR Kerry Meier. They have some question marks on D, but they have almost their whole D-Line coming back, and their whole secondary back. Also, we haven't fared too well at Kansas in recent memory including some heartbreakers. Oh, and I almost forgot, KU has a bye week when we're playing K-State so they will have an extra week to prepare for us. I don't think Mangino will let his team wait until the 2nd half to show up like they did last year.
In summary, I have us going 1-2 down this stretch, with an overall record of 4-2 (0-2 in the conference). Having seen us win only 5 games in the 2 years previous, I'd be thrilled to see 4 wins halfway through the season.
What are your thoughts about this stretch of the schedule? Do you have us at 4-2 at the halfway point of the season as well?
On Thursday, I will predict the 3rd quarter of the season!