The Ralphie Report sat down with the fine Iowa State blog on SBNation, Clone Chronicles, to discuss many things like this weekend's game, how Iowa State has played after beating Nebraska three weeks ago, QB Austen Arnaud and finally, some predictions.
A couple weeks ago, Iowa State beat Nebraska in Lincoln. No small feat at all but were aided by eight Husker turnovers. On the flip side, Iowa State was without two offensive starters in QB Austen Arnaud and RB Alexander Robinson. The rest of the Cyclones' victories have come against North Dakota State, Kent State, Army and Baylor (minus Robert Griffin). I guess, as a fan, how do you feel about this team and are you pleased with their performance this year?
Most ISU fans know that all 8 turnovers needed to happen in order to win this game. Still though, they had their backup QB, backup RB (who now isn't even listed on the two-deeps), and were able to snap a 33 year losing streak in Lincoln. People aren't going to be down about that at all.
As far as how good the team is, I'd say it's improved from last year in some respects, but worse in other areas. I think we're comparable to the rest of the North. Remember, ISU had chances against K-State and KU, losing by a combined 6 points. ISU was just short of being 4-1 in the North right now, and this question wouldn't even be brought up.
As far as record goes, I predicted 6-6 before the season started, so it's about par for my expectations in that respect. As far as what I'm seeing on the field, I am mostly disappointed in the offense. ISU's offense was decent last year, and kept them in some games. This year with adding a coordinator like Tom Herman, you would've thought that ISU's offense would improve, but have only scored 27 points the last three games.
Even if ISU loses out and is 5-7, it would be very disappointing at first, but in retrospect it'd be hard to say it was a bad year.
I realize that this schedule wasn't all that tough as you were pointing out (57th according to Sagarin), but it's still a little tougher than Penn State's (72nd according to Sagarin) for example. What's worse, having ISU who generally ranks in the 50-70 range in terms of recruiting lose 5 games at this point, or have Penn State lose 2 games with an easier schedule and a program that brings in some top talent? It's probably about the same if you think about it.
I've just come to find that if ISU does poorly, people will point out how we suck, will always suck, etc. If we do better than people expect, they find ways to point out how we really aren't that "good".
I think ISU is team that's competitive within a very mediocre division (close games to KSU, KU, and NU so far). But with 68 teams going to bowl games, there's bound to be some mediocre teams in the mix.
click after the jump to see the rest of the interview:
The last two weeks, Iowa State has had trouble on both sides of the ball. What are the few main things that need to be fixed when Colorado comes to town next weekend?
Offensively: establish the passing game. ISU is a good running team, but faced one of the best rushing defenses last week in OSU, and got down too quickly against A&M to run the ball. There are a handful of 1st and 2nd down passes that go incomplete, and often times this sets up a long 3rd down. If ISU can do a better job passing earlier in the drives, they can minimize the long 3rd downs and keep drives moving.
Defensively: Defensive line play. This has been a problem all year, but there needs to be improvement in this area. Quite simply on defense, ISU is giving the QB too much time to find the open receiver. Last week, there were possessions where Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson was able to scan all of his receivers with absolutely zero pressure. Often times the secondary is getting held out to dry. Also, a majority of ISU's sacks (which aren't many) are coverage sacks. It may look like ISU's secondary isn't good, but they're decent. It's the D-Line making them look bad.
I doubt these will be fixed, but steady improvement in those areas from last week would go a long way.
A bright spot of this year's team has to be the offensive line. Just looking at the stats, RB Alexander Robinson has statistically had a nice year on the ground. Overall, Iowa State ranks third in the Big12 in rushing and second in total sacks given up (10th in the nation overall). Just how good has the offensive line been or are the stats misleading?
The O-Line is one of the better ones in the Big 12 I think. If Reggie Stephens doesn't get on the All Big 12 team, I'll go ballistic. This unit was a straight up liability in 2008. Last year against Kent State, they couldn't get a first down on the ground on 3rd and 1 and 4th and inches for example. An additional year of development and playing together has helped. Also, moving Reggie Stephens from OG to C has helped a lot as well.
If ISU had better backups at QB and RB, the rushing totals and sack totals (due to the QB holding the ball for too long) would look even better than now. Regarding the sacks, it helps a lot that ISU is playing exclusively from the Shotgun, but this is a solid unit, along with one of the biggest in the nation (average weight = 326 lbs!)
What is your opinion right now of QB Austen Arnaud and the quarterback situation overall at Iowa State? Good running game, seems like a pretty solid offensive line, but Arnaud's completion percentage has regressed from a year ago. Were you expecting more from Arnaud this year?
Arnaud has had a rough year. Early in the year, he tried to do too much and had a bad game against Iowa. The next 5 games, he threw for a better completion percentage, and only threw 1 pick (vs. 4 against Iowa). His confidence was down until the KU game, and he got injured against Baylor. Against Oklahoma State, he wasn't quite himself. He made maybe 1 or 2 decent throws, made some bad reads, and was behind some receivers.
Arnaud is the undisputed leader of this team, though. When he's weary the rest of the team follows suit. He needs to quarterback the team, and hopefully, can play through some of this (poor play).
I expected him to put up similar numbers from last year with 20-25 TDs. I did think we would have to pass more than we currently are. I don't think any ISU fan anticipated that the running game would be doing so well now.
Probably a question you get a lot is about your new coach Paul Rhoads. Rhoads quickly became a college football fan favorite after the youtube video of the locker room after the Nebraska game. You have to love that sort of passion. Grade Rhoads' first year as the Iowa State head coach and talk about the feeling around the fan base about him?
I give Coach Rhoads a B for this year so far, unknown overall. They've improved in a lot of areas, and at times played better than I thought they would. Why I give him a B is because of how the team has played since beating Nebraska.
For the fans, the win over Nebraska had this sense of "mission accomplished" in terms of the season being a success. ISU was in the North race again. Getting to a bowl game became a foregone conclusion at that point, and I wonder if that attitude amongst many of the fans carried over to the team as well. I think with the casual ISU fan, that video cemented Coach Rhoads at ISU for a while. Some will be fans of his for life, regardless of win-loss record. People in Ames have a lot of ISU pride, and having a coach show that means a lot to them.
Now, the North is 99% out, and no one is quite sure that ISU will get to bowl game. The feeling amongst fans is that if ISU wins against Colorado, they have a good chance at winning at Missouri. Were if they lose to Colorado, the confidence that they will be able to win in Columbia the following week in the season finale will be very much in doubt, and rightfully so.
As far as the unknown overall grade: I like what I see at times, but obviously the ability of the coaching staff as a whole will be seen when the class that will sign this winter are juniors and seniors (Coach Rhoads first real recruiting class). It's all about recruiting and development in college football. Right now, he's winning with McCarney and Chizik's players, but soon he will have to do it with his own.
And finally prediction time:
ISU wins if they are able to run for 150 yards, pass for 200 yards, and wins the turnover battle
CU wins if they are able to shut down ISU's running game, can give their QB time to throw, and win the turnover battle.
Final Score: ISU 27, CU 24