Here's a quick summary of how I have ISU going in the 2009 Football Season:
- NDSU: W
- Iowa: W
- at Kent State: W
- Army: W
- Kansas State: L
- Kansas: L
- Baylor: W
- at Nebraska: L
- at Texas A&M: L
- Oklahoma State: L
- Colorado: W
- Missouri: L
Going 6-6 on the year and hoping to get invited to a bowl game would be huge for the program, and I don't think there's a single ISU fan that wouldn't be excited about the end result. But is it crazy to think we could get to 6 wins this year?
The non-ISU fan would probably laugh at these projections. They would put us down for losses to Iowa, Colorado (since many think they are turning it around), and probably Baylor. It's the easy thing to do. All they see is a team that went 2-10 and didn't win a single conference game last year.
But I see it differently. We've beat Iowa 4 of the last 5 times we've played at home, including a highly ranked Iowa team in 2005. In 2002, we beat an Orange Bowl-bound Iowa team in their house. Regardless of how much better Iowa might be on paper, those of us that follow the program know this game in winnable and has typically been close. Could ISU lose? Of course they could, but they can win as well.
What the naysayers will also neglect to see is that we were tied with Iowa 3-3 going into the 4th quarter. We were up 20-0 against a #16 Kansas at halftime, and with the ball with about a minute left down by only 2. We lost to UNLV in overtime, in a game where we didn't show up until the 2nd half. With Colorado, we had more than a good chance to pull off the victory and just came up short. Right there, that's 3 or 4 more wins if just a couple of things go a little differently. Obviously they didn't and that's football, but this was a more competitive team last year than the record indicates.
This year, we have an easier schedule than last. We play an extra home game in the non-conference portion, and we get the best teams on the schedule (Iowa and Oklahoma State) at home instead of on the road last year.
When taking everything into consideration, it's easy to see that going from 2-10 to 6-6 would be a big jump to an outsider, that in reality it's more like going from a 4-5 win team to a 6 win team. I'm really looking forward to the season, and I would love to see us surprise some people. As these underclassmen go to upperclassmen, and as freshmen are now sophomores, I see a team that improves based on experience, and a team playing with a huge chip on the shoulder.
Chizik leaving was a slap in the face to the team, and it's their mission to prove everybody wrong. It's difficult to measure the heart of the team, and if this team plays with attitude, passion, and a chip on their shoulder, they are going to be better than many think.
Am I drinking the Kool-Aid right now? Maybe, maybe not. I know that I do not feel like I am. Since this is ISU, could we be a 4 win team that narrowly loses a couple? Of course! But when I look at the schedule, I see a large chunk of tossups, and ISU winning about half of them. I don't expect everything to go ISU's way, and I tried to incorporate that into my projections. To me, a toss-up means you have to flip a coin to decide, so going 50% on these games seems reasonable - at least to me.
Let me know your thoughts. How do you have ISU doing this year? This coming week, I'll preview the rest of the Big 12 to give an idea of how I think the conference will shake out for 2009.