For a number of reasons I won't bore you with, it's been entirely too long since the last installment of Enemy Intel.
But, as the Missouri Tigers head into their 2009 home finale, I'm proud to announce that EI is back.
This week, I enlisted the help of Bobby La Gesse, sports editor over at the Ames Tribune . On the docket is La Gesse's thoughts on Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads, the matchup between the Cyclones' efficient running attack and Missouri's stiff run defense, and the overflow of optimism taking place in Ames amid ISU's first bowl-eligible season in four years.
RF: How would you describe the impact Paul Rhoads has made on this ISU program in his first season? How does he differ from Gene Chizik, and are you surprised by his early success?
BLG: Paul Rhoads has made Iowa State football relevant again in the Big 12. He differs from Gene Chizik in the fact that he emphasizes teaching a lot more. ISU has made huge strides in tackling this season because of the emphasis the coaching staff has put on it.
RF: In your mind, how has Austen Arnaud progressed in his second full season as the Cyclones' starting quarterback?
BLG: Arnaud has had an up-and-down season. He has had great games, like against Kansas, and has had games where he has struggled, like against Kansas State. The Cyclones will need Arnaud to be sharp this weekend if they are to have a shot at beating Missouri.
RF: Looking back, ISU is potentially a blocked extra point [against Kansas State] and an overthrown pass [at Kansas] away from currently being 8-3. I realize Rhoads may not be into looking back at what may have been, but how encouraging is it that ISU is a pair of slim losses from being a major player in the Big 12 North?
BLG: The big thing with the ISU football team is that they are bowl eligible. The team hasn't been to a bowl game since 2005. Getting six wins was a big deal in Ames. Fans would love it if the Cyclones had eight wins and a chance to play in a January bowl game, but this year has been all about progress in Ames.
Losing those two games doesn't change the fact that a lot of progress has been made in 2009 and that the future around the program is bright.
RF: How much success do you anticipate the Cyclones and running back Alexander Robinson having on the ground against MU's 17th-ranked run defense? Or do you think Rhoads will choose to air it out with Arnaud, who set a school record with 36 completions against the Tigers a season ago?
BLG: The running game is the heart and soul of the ISU offense. They will try to establish it early and stick with it throughout the game. The ISU rushing attack versus the Missouri rush defense is one of the best matchups to follow on Saturday.
RF: Like Missouri, Iowa State has been inconsistent from week to week this season. What Cyclone team do you expect to show up this week? And how do you see this one playing out?
BLG: Winning last week seemed to re-energize the Cyclones. There has been an added bounce in the step of players I've talked to this week. ISU has had problems stopping spread offenses. If the Cyclones are to win, they will have to do a better job defending the spread than they've done in the last few seasons.
The foremost source for everything Iowa State athletics, Ames Tribune sports editor Bobby La Gesse doubles as a reporter covering ISU football and men's basketball. He contributes regularly to the paper's Iowa State page, GoCyclones.com .
And be sure to check back at GoCyclones.com as the MU-ISU game draws closer, as La Gesse and the Tribune crew were nice enough to invite me to participate in some weekend predictions and a brief Q&A session for their Gameday preview section.
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