Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Head coach Paul Rhoads
This year the Cyclones return six offensive starters and four defensive starters. This should equate to a losing season, but head coach Paul Rhoads consistently exceeds the so-called experts' expectations. The biggest reason for his success has been due to his defenses.
Not one of Iowa State's opponents last year scored more than 35 points. High-flying Oklahoma State scored 31 points, Oklahoma scored 35, Kansas State scored 27, Baylor scored 21 and West Virginia scored 31.
The defensive line will have to be rebuilt, so will the linebacker unit. Losing strong safety Durrell Givens and cornerback Jeremy Reeves will hurt the secondary, but cornerback Jansen Watson and free safety Jacques Washington return.
Stingy defense has kept the Cyclones in games, but without A.J. Klein or Jake Knott playing linebacker, the defense will struggle.
Quarterback Sam Richardson is going to feel immense pressure. For a program that is not known for quarterback play, this is a huge undertaking. Will Rhoads manage to surprise us again?
The schedule is a nightmare. The Cyclones' non-conference schedule includes Northern Iowa, Iowa and at Tulsa. Their road games are at Texas Tech, at Baylor, at Kansas State, at Oklahoma and at West Virginia.
Losses: Iowa, Tulsa, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma. Toss-ups: Kansas and West Virginia.
Prediction: A 2-10 finish seems likely, but the Rhoad's factor makes a 4-8 or 5-7 season possible. The Cyclones will upset Texas Tech and could walk away with victories against Kansas and West Virginia.