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There is hope in Ames, which is kind of weird to say for a team that has lost at least nine games in three-straight years. But in comes head coach Matt Campbell (from Toledo) to lead the team and so far, so good for the Cyclones. They have the most starting experience returning on the defensive side in the Big 12, while the offense has a trio coming back at the most important skill positions.
Currently Iowa State is listed at odds of 135 to 1 to win the Big 12 and 3000 to 1 to win the National Title. Odds change, so be sure to check for updates at 5 dimes sportsbook and betonline.
That starts at quarterback with Joel Lanning (55.4% completion, 10 TDs, 4 INTs), who took over halfway through the 2015 season and looks to have a hold on the position now. Lanning gets his top target back in Allen Lazard (808 yards, 6 TDs), but someone else needs to step up like Jauan Wesley (301 yards, 2 TDs) or Dondre Daley (244 yards, 2 TDs).
Either way, this will still be a run-first team. Lanning is a mobile quarterback and Mike Warren (1,339 yards, 5 TDs) was one of the better running backs in the conference as a freshman last season. The question falls to the offensive line where the five starters still aren't solidified. Center Julian Good-Jones stood out in the spring, which was good to see, while Jake Campos and Patrick Scroggins provide some experience. If the line can figure things out, the Cyclones may have a fairly decent offense, which hasn't been the case for a long time.
Iowa State's defense returns a lot of experience from last year's group, so at least there's that, even if they struggled greatly. Starting with the front four, the Cyclones have plenty of talent and experience to go around with Demond Tucker at tackle and ends filled with depth led by J.D. Waggoner and Jhaustin Thomas. Linebacker is deep as well led by senior Jordan Harris and Willie Harvey, who is set to be a stud for years to come. The secondary is strong with Brian Peavy and senior Nigel Tribune at corner to go with D'Andre Payne at nickel.
All that said, this is still a group that gave up 32.7 points per game a year ago. Iowa State has the experience and possibly the talent, but can they put it together to string up six wins and a bowl berth in Campbell's first season?
The schedule may not allow them. The Cyclones travel to Iowa and then TCU in just their second and third games. That could be a problem, but they will have opportunities at home wins against K State, Texas Tech and West Virginia late in the season. Iowa State probably won't challenge for the Big 12 title, but expect this team to fight every week and get an upset or two, something that hasn't been the case in the last few years.
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2016 Iowa State Cyclones Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Northern Iowa
Sept. 10 at Iowa
Sept. 17 at TCU
Sept. 24 vs. San Jose State
Oct. 1 vs. Baylor
Oct. 8 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 15 at Texas
Oct. 29 vs. Kansas State
Nov. 3 vs. Oklahoma
Nov. 12 at Kansas
Nov. 19 vs. Texas Tech
Nov. 26 vs. West Virginia
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