Iowa St football: a vortex of suck
In meteorogical terms, a cyclone is an area of low atmospheric pressure characterized by inward spiraling winds. In football terms, a Cyclone is a negligible football entity characterized by inward looking fans spiraling out of control with giddy optimism from a marginal hire. Aside from their WNBA sounding mascot (The Dubuque Breeze! The Des Moines Rather Stiff Winds!) Iowa State is notable for the fact that they trail only the Utah Jazz for most inappropriately named sports team. What place more than Iowa conjures images of butterscotch colored women walking by palm trees swathed in sultry humidity being beaten down by fierce tropical winds? Saskatchewan, perhaps?
Much has been made of Gene Chizik, who is more overrated than Calista Flockhart. A valet once pump faked throwing Chizik his car keys and Gene ran for five miles before collapsing in exhaustion. Pretend to throw a frisbee with an accompanying convincing facial expression and Chizik will run around your yard searching for about an hour longer than your labrador retriever. My suspicions about Gene began early. I watched Auburn play in 2004 and two things struck me: first, he had a lot of talent. Senior talent. Second, they were playing in a SEC West with as retarded a group of college offenses as I'd ever seen. This is a place where people quick kicked on 3rd and 4. Chizik's adjustments from week to week consisted of swapping out the team name on his dry erase board. They even lucked out with Virginia Tech as a bowl opponent. The Big 12 is inarguably less talented than the SEC, but the offenses in this league are as wide open as a Puerto Rican girl's legs near Derek Jeter. In the SEC West circa 2004, a 3 WR set was considered to be some edgy shit. A confused Chizik kept asking the officials if the extra WR was some sort of tackle eligible play.
I stopped looking one hour ago, Gene
Mean Gene read the tea leaves of his graduating seniors and made the jump to Austin where he landed 8 NFL players in his starting DL and secondary. He put out a very solid defense complemented by one of the most dynamic offenses in NCAA history. He is master thespian: Gennnniuuuuuuuus! After our MNC, Gene Chizik was viewed as the Neils Bohr of college football because he espoused playing a base 4-3 against five WR sets and he firmly believed that having players better than his opponent's players at every position is "smart coaching." This is coaching cruise control, yet everyone is calling him Mario Andretti.
Highway conditions changed.
The next year, still bursting with talent, but deprived of Swiss Army knife Michael Huff and uber-reliable Cedric Griffin, Chizik decides we must shut down the run at all costs. We run a scheme in which eleven men and all of the student trainers play the run, and we end up with scenes reminescent of Jodi Foster in The Accused whenever someone runs a hint of play action or trickeration. Accordingly, Chizik made adjustments as quickly as FEMA. The Chiz, once thought to be in line for the next great college job, had it suggested to him rather forcibly that Ames would be a wonderful place for him, and can we help you pack your shit? I think he got the message when Mack Brown handed him a sack lunch and a Greyhound bus ticket. Too bad he called our last two games from Ames.
Next stop, Ames: Where Ketchup Is A Spice
Gene Chizik is emulative. The Rich Little of defensive coordination. A Monte Kiffin doppleganger. That's no knock: most football coaches are. There are about two dozen truly original minds in the history of the game and the success of their pupils is dependent on their ability to take their master's principles and apply them successfully to dynamic environments. Football is the definition of a fluid environment - when teams figure out your modus operandi, they'll pick at your scabs until you bleed to death. Chizik is a Tampa Two, Monte Kiffin disciple. It's good stuff. Sound stuff. It's also a very basic template for playing defense against a two RB, two WR offense - it's not a one-size-fits-all formula. As teams trot out more WRs, as they spread the field with option, as they bait your safeties with play action, you have to possess the creative wherewithal to adjust. When you invented the system, you can do so. When you merely ape the system, you often can't.
The good news for Iowa State is that they didn't hire a defensive coordinator, they hired a head football coach. His job will be to recruit, delegate, inspire, marshall ISU's meager resource base, evaluate talent, and raise the prestige of the program. Like Larry Eustachy did for basketball. So my critique of him as a defensive coordinator is in no way predictive of his success as a head coach. He could be Bear Bryant for all I know. I hope he is. Anything to elevate the Big 12 North past the Mountain West works for me.
A box and one
Iowa State has four things going for it this year: Todd Blythe, Bret Meyer, Alvin Bowen...and Monte Kiffin on speed dial. The OL is porous (38 sacks last year), the DL is smallish and counting on JUCO salvation, and the secondary runs like their feet are trapped in cinder blocks (ranked 115th in pass defense last year). Alvin Bowen's sidekick at LB is Joe Banks, who does not suffer from a brain cloud.
The best player on Iowa State's defense is LB Alvin Bowen. Bowen is nicknamed "Ace", because he's the only card of note the ISU defense has to play. His brothers Simon and Theodore preceded him at Iowa State where they won All Big 8 Honors in the 1980's subsisting entirely on a diet of acorns, much like the protagonist in My Side Of The Mountain. Alvin is undersized, fast, and makes plays from sideline to sideline. Generally a sideline twelve yards past the line of scrimmage. Bowen is as tough as nails, partially attributable to the fact that he grew up named Alvin. Actually, that's not true. In the black community, dudes can be named Alvin, Eugene or Buckminster with virtual impunity. Name a white kid that and he's guaranteed formative years full of wedgies and swirlies. Name a black kid that and he ends up Homecoming King and fucks Vivica Fox at some point in his life. It's unfair. The same way a black guy can look James Bond freaking sharp in a lime green suit, a polka dot bow tie, yellow dress shirt and white shoes, a white guy dressed similarly looks like a fruity transgendered SAE golf pro. I'm not saying this fact evens out years of systematic oppression. I'm just saying I'd like it if a white guy named Clarence could pull off wearing mango slacks, a fringed peach vest, and a bowler hat and not get f'ed with. W.E.B. Dubois had his vision, I have mine. Each is inspiring in its own way.
Alvin Bowen would look totally cool in this
Todd Blythe is 6-5, white, and an excellent deep threat (18.7 ypc career average). Naturally, announcers compare him to Wayne Chrebet who is 5-9, white, and a negligible deep threat. Brett Meyer is a good QB when he's not on his back like a two dollar Davenport whore. He throws a nice ball and his career numbers are very solid. He's more thrower than runner, but I actually heard an announcer compare him to Michael Vick in his athleticism, which makes me want to pass a rule that no white male with rouge on his cheeks who attended East Coast prep schools is allowed to broadcast football games. Why don't we just have Isaac Mizrahi and Boy George announce? Then we could hear entertaining things like,"I'd like to see Todd Blythe in a Vera Wang gown. His cheekbones are carved with a chisel. I bet he tastes like musky man taffy."
This is a four win football team. 0-8 or 1-7 in the Big 12 is a real possibility. ISU is pissed they don't have Baylor on the schedule this year. And Baylor is pissed they don't have Iowa St. In a gang fight, it's like the kid in the wheelchair locking eyes with the kid on the breathing tube each knowing that they both have a shot at this. All you need is Eric Cartman to come in and scream,"Cripple Fighhhhhhhhht!"
Cyclones! Bears! Bloodbath!
All in all, Iowa St football is in a tough situation. That's OK. Their fans are the salt of the earth. They don't put on airs (even though they are Cyclones, harr harr), they are willing to be patient, and most of all, they just want to not suck at something. I think most of us wish them well. Don't we?
Pulling for you, Timmah!