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2009 Big 12 Football Previews: Iowa State

Iowa State started their 2008 campaign 2-0 but they followed it up with 10 consecutive losses. Insert new Head Coach Paul Rhoads and a new offensive philosophy and the Cyclones are ready to end a few droughts. They haven’t won a road game since October of 2005 and haven’t won a conference game since November of 2007


Iowa State averaged 386.8 yards and 25.3 points per game last season but are installing a new offense in `09. Perhaps inspired by the success of Oklahoma, O-State, Texas and Texas Tech the Cyclones are the next team in the Big 12 to move to the spread offense. Tom Herman has moved from Rice to Ames and will try to duplicate the success he had with his spread attack there.


The key to any spread attack is a solid quarterback who makes sound decisions and distributes the ball effectively and it will be up to Austen Arnaud to fill that role. Last season he threw for 2,792 yards and 15 touchdowns while only throwing to the guys in the other colored jerseys 10 times. Alexander Robinson but behind him there are no experienced players at that position. The receiver position is a little better where Houston Jones is the only returning starter. That’s not to say they are without any other experienced receivers, they just don’t have a lot.

Offense Per Game Rank












The quarterback is the key component in the spread attack but the offense also need talented players at the skill positions as well as depth. ISU returns starting running back


The offensive line is fairly solid with three  returning starters. The Cyclones will be breaking in new starters at both tackle positions.



Paul Rhoads is a defensive coach and that’s exactly what Iowa State needed. The Cyclones gave up almost 36 points per game in `08 and above anything else that the one stat that has to be improved upon immediately. As the defensive coordinator for Auburn and Pittsburgh, Rhoads is used to coaching top notched defenses but at this point the Cyclone defense is a long way from being described as top notch.


Defense Per Game Rank













ISU only returns five starters from last year but with a new coach and new coordinator everyone is starting over. A tell tale sign of a struggling defense is when the team’s leading tackler is a safety and that’s what we find in this case. The Cyclones are going to have to have to improve on stopping plays up front and not letting them get into the secondary. The Cyclones will have three seniors along their defensive line and two of their three linebackers are seniors.


At first glance having a former walk-on start at middle linebacker could be another red flag. However, Jesse Smith isn’t your normal walk-on. He has a motor that doesn’t quit and a knack for finding the ball. The Cyclones actually could use a few more players like him.


The secondary may be the best unit on the defense. Safety James Smith led the team in tackles last year and will provide senior leadership to the secondary. Sophomore cornerback Leonard Johnson is getting a lot of attention as possibly one of the top corners in the Big 12.



Passing Austen Arnaud, 247/401, 2,792, 15 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing Alexander Robinson, 153/703, 6 TDs
Receiving Darius Darks, 49/477, 1 TD
Tackles James Smith, 85
Sacks Christopher Lyle, 5


2008 High

2008 Low

48-28 Win Over Kent State 35-7 Loss To Nebraska