Oklahoma takes a shift in their north division opponents this year by letting go of Kansas, Kansas State and Nebraska while picking up Colorado, Iowa State and Missouri. The first of those three opponents is a home date against the Cyclones.
Iowa State was one of the surprise teams in the Big 12 last year after finishing with a 3-5 conference record and 7-6 overall, including a 14-13 win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. They were next to last in the Big 12 in scoring offense with 20.8 points per game and sixth in scoring defense with 22.6 points allowed per game. What will make them dangerous in 2010 is eight returning starters on offense led by senior quarterback Austen Arnaud.
Hamilton led the team in receptions (50), receiving yards (606), yards per reception (12.1) and receiving yards per game (46.6). Catlett hauled in 29 passes for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's not to say that the cupboard is bare when it comes to receiving targets because among the eight returning starters are Jake Williams and Darius Darks.
Arnaud passed for 2,015 yards and 14 touchdowns last season but will have to improve on his 13 interceptions and continue to be a dual threat to opposing defenses. In addition to his passing stats he also ran for 561 yards (second on the team) and 8 touchdowns. He'll enter the 2010 season as one of the Big 12's most experienced quarterbacks.
At his disposal, Arnaud will have Williams and Darks who finished second and third on the team in receptions respectively. Williams was also tops on the team in touchdown receptions with 5. Alexander Robinson ran for 1,195 yards (3rd best in the Big 12) last year in teaming up with Arnaud to create the Big 12's fourth most potent rushing attack with an average of 177.3 yards per game.
Iowa State's offensive line helped pave the way for the rushing attack and gave up a total of 17 sacks. Four of the five starters from last year are returning in `10 and will all be upperclassman.
Iowa State's defense suffered massive losses due to graduation. Their top three and (and three of their top four) tacklers from 2009 are gone and so is the leadership of a senior laden defense. Jesse Smith recorded led the team with 135 tackles while James Smith and Fred Garrin were second and third with 92 and 88 tackles respectively. Christopher Lyle was fourth on the team in tackles with 69 but also led the way on the defense in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (5).
The Cyclones had a bend but don't break defense last season. They gave up a ton of yardage but only allowed a respectable 22.6 points per game. When you consider they were 10th in pass defense (245 yards per game) and 11th against the run (169.3 yards per game), finishing 6th in the conference in points allowed seems to be quite the accomplishment. Opponents averaged 4.4 yards per carry against Iowa State while quarterbacks completed 62.4% of their passes with 22 touchdowns on the season.
Iowa State has a small nucleus returning from last year's defense. Among them are Davis Sims who placed third on the team with 88 tackles but led the squad in interceptions with 5. Leonard Johnson recorded recorded 64 tackles while Patrick Neal and Bailey Johnson recorded 27 and 22 tackles each. The gigantic glaring hole is that the Cyclones have no returning starters among the linebackers. Two returners among the defensive line and in the secondary but leadership will need to develop very quickly in the second line of defense.