Personally I hold a bit of animosity towards the state of Iowa right now. Not because of some undue bias against backwoodsman whose sustenance relies on an agrarian existence. I'm from Texas for heaven's sake, that would be hypocritical and besides, we have Aggies here to focus that ire towards.
No, my particular distaste for Iowa has more to do with the quadrennial collection of political carcasses that show up in Iowa to caucus. Once there of course, their specific intent is to build the most important of sports cliches: momentum!
Caucus season signals the beginning of voter blocks remembering why they detested those that they share opposite views with, but still typically care for when the subject is on the backburner. Malevolence begins anew, and it's exhausting.
Blame Canada? No, blame Iowa.
Ray Kinsella had the right idea, but not the heart or perseverance to follow through. If I had my druthers I'd de-harvest the entire state and turn it into the world's second largest baseball stadium. The largest of course being whichever field Augie Garrido and his band of merry bunters take to.
While numerous politicos take to the pejoratively named 'fly-over' state with the intent to lead, Iowa is already home to a man who knows a thing or two about leadership, hard work, maximizing talent and preparedness.
Knowing full well that if you build it they will indeed come, Paul Rhoads, Iowa State's head football coach, is trying to build an attraction of a different kind -- a winning football program.
The locals in Ames all ask, Is he darn tootin' crazy?!
No crazier than selecting the Iowa Corn Growers Association to re-design the Cy-Hawk Trophy.
This design barely edged out the fan favorite “Gargamel-Headed Flamingonado With Crab Claws and Iowa State Pennant”:
Anyway, this kind of corny chicanery is the kind of stuff Paul Rhoads has to deal with on a daily basis. Still, he's getting it done in a this-team-has-no-business-going-.500 kind of way.
Rhoads is perhaps the most underrated football coach this side of Corvallis and after back to back years that featured a shocking win over a traditional power he looks to take his program to the next level, that of consistent winner.
Rhoads first stepped into the national spotlight after taking over a team full of surprisingly eligible players from Gene Chizik and proceeded to beat a revitalized Nebraska Cornhusker team on the weakness of NU's welfare. It was perhaps the ugliest win in modern college football, 9-7, but it happened in Lincoln and it snapped an eleven game conference losing streak. It also sparked some hilarious Nebraskan insights, most notably, If we wouldn't have turned the ball over eight times we would have kicked their ass!
Still, people outside of Ames barely knew the name Paul Rhoads. Most just assumed he was related to Randy Rhoads and instant star power conveyed.
Then, shit got real last year.
Paul Rhoads: Do you know how much you scored today, Greg?
Greg Davis: Well, we've got ol' number seven here, the former Gatorade national player of the year at quarterback, an offensive line full of four stars and a group of skill players similarly talented. I'd say 60, no more'n 65, tops.
Paul Rhoads: You scored 21. TWENTY ONE POINTS. Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.
Greg Davis: I had it all, uh, scripted. A few things got away from us. We'll be ready next year.
Paul Rhoads: You think you're still going to have a job, Candy Man? Ha ha ha ha!
Not that beating last year's Texas team is something to write a screenplay about, but we were coming off a great win at Nebraska the week prior and ISU's win over UT personified what I like about Rhoads; his teams are more often than not prepared to play hard, even if they're obviously void of parallel talent.
Imagine what he could do with Gus Malzahn at offensive coordinator and Cecil Newton as team chaplain?
Rather than Malzahn as OC, Rhoads has Tom Herman - a former Texas graduate assistant - manning the offensive reins. Herman, like most OC's these days, runs a spread. He has experience running a pass first spread like he did at Rice, or one that incorporates more running from the quarterback like he previously did with Austen Arnaud and will continue to do with 2011 starter and bavarian fragrance namesake, Steele Jantz. 60% of the time he completes passes 100% of the time.
Jantz, the recent transfer from JUCO power City College of San Francisco is fancied by many to be a Taylor Martinez type, which isn't entirely accurate.. The comparisons to Martinez could be good or bad of course, depending on whether you talk to Bo Pelini or Martinez's dad, Landon. Jantz isn't as fast but has a better arm. And more importantly, a better name. You know a guy like Colt McCoy was put on this Earth to win football games. Case McCoy? Ehhhhh...but STEELE JANTZ does not sound like a guy who will be denied on the gridiron. Or a porn set.
Perhaps an even bigger hole to fill than the departure of Arnaud is that of running back Alexander Robinson, who is currently in the Minnesota Vikings training camp and finished five yards - four Cody Johnson touchdown runs - shy of 1000 yards on the season.
Despite the loss, Rhoads and company feel confident they can eat up yards with home run threat Shontrelle Johnson, a former Florida Gator offer, and thumper Jeff Woody in the backfield.
Blocking up front will be a line consisting of three returning starters led by future early NFL draft pick, guard Kelechi Osemele, the appropriately named Hayworth Hicks, and tackle Brayden Burris. Not a lot of depth, so the RBs typically just follow wherever Osemele's ass takes them...
The wide receiver corp is made up of some talented if underutilized athletes. Most notable are the two Dariuii; Austin Connally graduate Darius Darks, and perhaps the fastest guy on the team, Darius Reynolds. Coincidentally, they approximate a Darius White combination of size and speed.
Offensively, Iowa State is going to have to improve across the board if they're going to want to stay out of the conference cellar. Last year they finished 111th in average yards per pass at 5.6 yards while averaging only 3.8 yards per rush. As those numbers would suggest, ISU struggled to light up the scoreboard, finishing at a 21.7 per game clip while giving up 28.8 on the defensive side.
Paul Rhoads has deduced this is not a winning formula.
He has tasted the feeling! He wants more!
Defense wins championships, but right now Rhoads and defensive coordinator Wally Burnham will settle for any victory. Burnham's probably at least 15 calendars older than Bill Snyder without the maniacal paranoia or sixth sense for making all the right moves.
Any time you have a centenarian on the sidelines, concerns arise over whether or not "the game has passed him by." Burnham's most recent success was in 2008 when he led South Florida to a top 10 defensive ranking. You remember 2008, don't you? Burnham is a fine coach, but he never lived up to the hype he garnered after former ISU coach Pop Warner named him head coach in waiting. You remember what a head coach in waiting is, don't you?
Coach B. is going to have to prove that the game truly hasn't passed him by, but the problem for him is he's going to have create pressure through scheme. Last year's Cyclones had only ten more sacks than that tranny OU cheerleader while also giving up 186.3 yards per game on the ground.
One thing they have going for them is that their defensive linemen should at least be fresh, with a rotation that could potentially go ten deep. Okay six. That's at least serviceable.
Behind the front four is the strength of the defense, linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. Knott was twelfth nationally in total tackles, and with the porous line in front of him this shouldn't come as a surprise. Knott and teammate A.J. Klein are both in the 6'1" 240 lb. range and though their bodies and pigmentation appear more suited to a bygone era, that's not necessarily the case. Knott had thee interceptions last year, while Klein had four, two of which he returned to fertile soil.
The secondary is lead by Leonard Johnson and Ter'Ran Benton, both guys that will have an honest chance at NFL careers. They have solid frames, can blitz for sacks and force fumbles but need to produce more INTs.
If this team can find any sort of pass rush, it will be markedly better defensively than it was last year. That should be priority number one for the staff, especially in the pass happy Big
Sept 3 vs Northern
Sept 10 vs Iowa
Awkward agrarian trophy on the line! Even the Governor hates it. Surely incentivizing a prize like this will draw the shock and awe treatment from the bloodthirsty suits in the NCAA. Who am I kidding? Nevin Shapiro could have handed out platinum Corn Family necklaces and nothing would come of it.
Sept 16 at Connecticut
It's on a Friday and I just spent a few hours writing this so yes I'll be watching. ISU has a small chance in this one assuming onery cuss Jim Calhoun doesn't suit up for the Huskies.
Oct 1 vs Texas
Not a bad tailgate to attend, they're midwesterners after all so they know beer and pork, and it won't be sperm freezing cold yet. Plus, Mack is the original proprietor of the family atmosphere. Does Ames have an airport?
Oct 8 at Baylor
Take the Rhoad Warriors and the points.
Oct 15 at Missouri
hmmm ... so who do we have next week? /Consults Farmer's Almanac. Uh oh...
Oct 22 vs Texas A&M
Farmers! So Texas is family weekend and Aggie is homecoming? Good planning, Jamie Pollard. Competitive loss...by 20.
Oct 29 at Texas Tech
ISU looks to get back-to-back wins on Tech after putting 52 on the board last year. Bizarrely, the Cyclones were shut out in the first and third quarters of that game. Nice in-game adjustments by Rhoads, imo.
Nov 5 vs Kansas
This one already makes me nervous. Don't touch it with a 14 foot silo sweeper.
Nov 18 vs Oklahoma State
ISU might want to have their pass rush problems figured out by this one.
Nov 26 at Oklahoma
Sadly, it doesn't really matter what they have figured out by this one.
Dec 3 at Kansas State
Both teams could be playing for a bowl game bid. And pride. And family. FOR IOWA!
While Rhoads is a great coach, he'll have trouble overcoming the talent deficits his team will face in most games. If he can somehow bring in better clay to mold, he might be the guy to turn the program around similar to what Bill Snyder was able to do at Kansas State during his first tenure.
If you have any interest in Iowa State athletics, or comedy in general, I suggest you check out Wide Right & Natty Lite. It's similar to Adam Jacobi's Hawkeye blog, Yellow Heart Bold Pants, but actually well informed and humorous.
Now come sing with me ...
WE'RE GOIN OFF THE RAILS ON A MAIZEY TRAIN