This game wraps up a home and home with the Rebels where the last game was at Iowa State where they won 16-10. The last few years for Iowa State has not been good, in fact the team has not been exciting since quarterback Seneca Wallace walked around campus. When this game rolls around in September and will be each teams fourth game, so by then we will know if Iowa State has a pulse or not.
Offense: Iowa State returns seven offensive starters, but the most glaring ommission is trying to replace former four year starter Bret Meyer. Not only was Meyer durable he finished his career on a streak of 48 straight starts, and was very effective. Meyer left Ames as Iowa State’s all-time leader with 9,499 passing yards and 10,422 yards of total offense.
The most likely replacement is sophomore Austin Arnaud, a local product and was groomed last year by appering in six games in his Freshman campaign. However during spring practice sophomore Phillip Bates emerged to make the quarterback race more interesting. As of now during fall camp the team has gone through four scrimmages and coach Chizik said, “Both of them moved the ball well today. They are progressing well. We didn’t turn the ball over at all today.” The race is still a dead heat with less then two weeks to opening day.
As for the running back position they were receiving high praise during the same scrimmage with the backs able to run stong up the middle of the line. This is the deepest position that the Cyclones have because last year the top three returning backs rushed for 100 yards in at least one game last season. Sophomore Alexander Robinson looks to be the lead back, because he is more complete in being able to make people miss and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Last year he caught 23 balls for 167 yards, so Robinson is capable adding another dimension to the offense.
Two other backs who will push Robinson for carries first are Senior Jason Scales who started five games and his best came agaisnt Nebraska with 115 yards on the ground, and the other is J.J. Bass who is a junior college transfer from a year ago and had 446 yards rushing in his first year of division one football.
In the receiver area the Cyclones other significant loss on offense was standout receiver Todd Blythe, who made 52 catches for a team-high 779 yards and five touchdowns last year. Blythe is the all-time leader in Iowa State history in the three main categories for wide receivers with 176 receptions, 3,096 yards and 31 touchdowns. Replacements will be Senior R.J. Sumrall after leading the team with 54 catches for 434 yards last season, including a career high eight grabs against Missouri. Also junior Marquis Hamilton is the closest thing the Cyclones have to a big body who could replace Blythe.
Defense: The team returns seven starters, and they will need the help as they gave up 31 points per game, but this year they do not have to face Oklahoma or Texas, plus they get Missouri and Kansas at home. The defense should be improved just on that part.
The biggest change is that the defensive line tha thas to replace their interior lineman, and that could be trouble since their rush defense was not that great this past year. The inexperience will be what hurts this team, but the coaching staff have believes the depth will be fine, but just needs the playing time.
The linebacking area is another tough hit spor with the teams top two tacklers from last years team are not there any more. The lone returning starter is junior middle linebacker Jesse Smith, who had 79 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in his 12 starts last year. If he can improve off of that then he has a chance to becom all league for 2008.
The defense last year just had a hard time with their difficult schedule, but even with the ‘easier’ schedule it will be tough for Iowa State to be too much better.
Early Prediction: This game is on the road where the Cyclones struggled the past few years, and UNLV should be improved this game will be a pick’em but as of now I will go with Iowa State.