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Iowa State coach certain Cyclones will be contenders

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  • Iowa State coach certain Cyclones will be contenders

    By Daniel Berk University Daily Kansan
    Lawrence, KS (U-WIRE) -- Iowa State was the surprise of the Big 12 Conference last year, taking advantage of a weak division to earn a piece of the Big 12 North crown.

    Last season, the Cyclones were picked to finish near the bottom of the conference. They hadn't captured a football trophy since 1912.

    This season, Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said he was hopeful the Cyclones would continue to improve and contend for the Big 12 Championship again.

    "We have rewritten the history books at Iowa State," McCarney said. "We have done things the school and program has never done in football, and yet we have lots and lots of room to improve. I am proud of what we have done."

    Iowa State finished the season winning five of its last six games, including a victory against Miami of Ohio in the Independence Bowl. The only game the Cyclones dropped during that stretch was a 17-14 match against the Missouri Tigers in the final regular season game of the year.

    A victory in that game would have given the Cyclones sole possession of the Big 12 North division, and would have sent them into the Big 12 Championship game against the Oklahoma Sooners.

    Leading the charge for the Cyclones this season will be sophomore quarterback Bret Meyer. Meyer started all 12 games for Iowa State last season, and accumulated 122 rushing yards in the Independence Bowl.

    McCarney said in order for the Cyclones to have another successful season, Meyer would have to continue to improve.

    "There is a tremendous upside to Bret Meyer," McCarney said. "It is just a matter of improving, doing the little things right, and picking up where he left off last year."

    Meyer will be joined in the backfield by junior running back Stevie Hicks. Hicks ran for more than 1,000 yards last season and will take the pressure off Meyer on offense.

    Also important on offense will be sophomore wide receiver Todd Blythe. Blythe was named to the Big 12 Media Preseason Football Team after wowing opponents by catching nine touchdowns and leading the conference last year with 21.4 yards per catch.

    Another target for Meyer will be junior wide receiver Austin Flynn. Flynn saw time at quarterback last year, but was moved to wide receiver in the off season to make room for Meyer.

    On defense, the Cyclones will have to replace first-team All-Big 12 cornerback Ellis Hobbs. Hobbs was the only Cyclone chosen in the NFL draft. Senior safety Nik Moser will be expected to replace Hobbs as the leader in the secondary.

    Another stand-out on defense will be senior defensive tackle Nick Leaders. Leaders is a four-year starter who coaches named second-team All-Big 12. Last season, Leaders racked up 50 tackles and led the team with 3.5 sacks.

    The Cyclones open their season Sept. 3 against Illinois State. Their second game will pit the Cyclones against in-state rival Iowa in a game that could be a major test for both teams. Other key games on the schedule include an Oct. 15 trip to Missouri and a Nov. 12 home match-up with Colorado. Iowa State concludes it's regular season with a trip to Lawrence Nov. 26.

    McCarney said the Cyclones would be more competitive this season, and that his team was no longer considered an automatic win for other teams.

    "We all think we can win," McCarney said. "There are some real tangible things we can point to in our program saying Iowa State is a team you better be ready for."

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the eighth of 11 articles previewing Kansas' competition in the Big 12 Conference. The articles will run every day from now until Sept. 1.

    (C) 2004 University Daily Kansan via U-WIRE

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  • DJRamFan
    Big 12 preview: No end in sight for North's woes
    by DJRamFan
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    The Big 12 North isn't a division, it's a kennel.

    You know, a place where all the mutts go.

    The division's six teams fell just short of making it into Letterman's monologue last year. Colorado was the "champion" and lost by 39 points to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. In inter-divisional play, the North won only three of 19 games against the loaded South. Conference officials are still determining whether those even count. All three were against Baylor.

    Big 12
    Predicted Finish
    1. Colorado
    2. Iowa State
    3. Nebraska
    4. Kansas State
    5. Missouri
    6. Kansas
    1. Texas
    2. Oklahoma
    3. Texas A&M
    4. Texas Tech
    5. Oklahoma State
    6. Baylor
    Off. player of year:
    Vince Young, Texas
    Def. player of year:
    Rodrique Wright, Texas
    Coach of the year:
    Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M
    Once again, the conference's title game (Dec. 3 in Houston), is expected to be a formality. Texas or Oklahoma will wipe the floor with the North's Last Comic Standing.

    It wasn't always this way. The league debuted 10 years ago with most of the power concentrated in the North. Nebraska was in the midst of winning three national championships in four years. Kansas won 10 games in 1995. Kansas State was an emerging national power. But while you were in the kitchen getting a sandwich, Big 12 North football became the island of misfit boys.

    Actually, it took a little longer than that. In the pillow fight that was the Big 12 North race last year, all Iowa State had to do was beat floundering Missouri -- which had lost to Troy -- to win its first race of any kind since tying for the Missouri Valley in 1912. After 92 years, a tap-in right?

    No, just another case of the yips. Missouri won in overtime, leaving the field feeling somewhat better about a 5-6 train wreck of a season in which its hothead coach needed some anger management and a new offensive coordinator. How dare media ask why Gary Pinkel's offense was able to turn Brad Smith from brilliant scrambling Heisman contender to pocket piņata?

    Once again, all six teams in the North have a chance to win the division going into 2005. That's kind of the problem. Colorado won it last year as much as the other five didn't.

    Gary Barnett and the Buffs are the best team in a bad Big 12 North division. (Getty Images)
    Can the Big 12 North bounce back? The short answer is "no" which, for now, is also the long-term answer. Blame it on Tom Osborne. When T.O. hung it up in December 1997, in retrospect, that sent Nebraska and the North...
    -08-18-2005, 08:49 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Oklahoma awaits Iowa State or Colorado
    by DJRamFan
    By Jacob Brown Daily Texan
    Austin, TX (U-WIRE) -- It's not surprising the Big 12 North Championship depends on what happens in this weekend's games. What is surprising, though, are the two teams who still have a chance to win the division.

    Either Colorado or Iowa State, both picked to finish near the bottom of the North, will play No. 2 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 4.

    The Cyclones are in if they beat Missouri Saturday or if Colorado loses Friday at Nebraska. The Buffaloes are in if they win and Iowa State loses.

    "I've got to get those Tigers fired up," Colorado head coach Gary Barnett said, referring to Missouri.

    While they were eliminated from the division title picture Saturday, the Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) still have a lot to play for. They need a win to become bowl-eligible and extend their streak of consecutive years with a postseason appearance to 36. They have also finished with a winning regular-season record every year since 1962.

    "I think it's really important," Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan said of the streak. "It's significant in every respect, from morale, to spirit, to tradition, to recruiting. It all ties in, so we're going to do our best to keep that streak alive."

    While the Cornhuskers hold a 44-16-2 overall edge in the rivalry, the Buffaloes (6-3, 3-4) have won two of the last three meetings, including a win at Nebraska in 2002. Barnett knows it won't take much to get his team riled up for Friday's contest.

    "It's one of those games that I think the only thing I have to do is tell our players what time the bus leaves," he said. "Not much more has to be said."

    Considering what the Colorado football team went through in its offseason, it was unexpected the team would be this position. But it might be even more astonishing if Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) makes the turnaround from a two-win season last year to a possible division championship this year.

    The Cyclones' impressive play led Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel to praise the work of Dan McCarney, Iowa State's head coach.

    "Dan has done a great job this year with the Iowa State football team. They really started off slow," Pinkel said, "[but now they are] just really playing well."

    Iowa State lost its first three conference games but is currently on a four-game winning streak, with its last two wins coming against Nebraska and at Kansas State.

    While the Cyclones have exceeded expectations this season, Missouri (4-6, 2-5) has been the most disappointing team in the Big 12. The Tigers opened conference play with a win over Colorado, but they have lost their past five games. Junior quarterback Brad Smith, a pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate, has had his worst season with the Tigers....
    -11-26-2004, 09:18 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Boise again stands between Fresno and WAC title
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 14, 2005
    By J. Darin Darst
    CBS Staff Writer
    Tell J. Darin your opinion!

    Expectations are high at Fresno State this season.

    But as long as Pat Hill is coaching, this year is just like any other.

    "My expectations have always been to win -- that will never change," said Hill, who is entering his ninth season at the school. "Until we finish the job every game for the entire season, we aren't getting the job done. It places a big bull's-eye on my back every year, but we are going to set our goals high and our job is to obtain those. And we haven't done that yet."

    Predicted Finish
    1. Fresno State
    2. Boise State
    3. Nevada
    4. New Mexico State
    5. Louisiana Tech
    6. Hawaii
    7. Idaho
    8. San Jose State
    9. Utah State
    Off. player of year:
    Bryson Sumlin, Fresno State
    Def. player of year:
    Korey Hall, Boise State
    Coach of the year:
    Pat Hill, Fresno State

    Fresno State returns eight starters on offense, including quarterback Paul Pinegar and running back Bryson Sumlin. That's good news for a team that finished 9-3, averaged 40 points per game and won its third consecutive bowl game over a team from a BCS conference.

    But the one thing the keeps evading the Bulldogs is a conference title and a chance to play in a major bowl game.

    Fresno State's last conference title was 1999, and a major reason for the drought is Boise State.

    Boise State is 4-0 against Fresno State since joining the WAC in 2001 and has won the past three championships and a record 26 consecutive conference games.

    Boise State QB Jared Zabransky returns after throwing 16 TDs in 2004. (Getty Images)
    "If you are going to win this conference you have to win against Boise," Hill said. "I compare Boise State to BYU in the '70s and '80s; they just didn't lose. Right now we are going through a cycle where Boise State has a very good program. What they've done over the past three years is amazing."

    Fresno State has lost at least two conference games in each of the past four seasons but has knocked off an impressive list of teams from BCS conferences, including Kansas State, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Virginia, Oregon State and Colorado.

    This season's schedule features two more out-of-conference games that could get the Bulldogs closer to achieving their goals -- Sept. 17 at Oregon and Nov. 19 at Southern Calfornia.

    "We have the type of schedule for us to obtain certain goals in Division I. We need to focus and play every game like a Game 7," said Hill. "This team has a lot of potential, but you got to win the WAC. ... You...
    -08-16-2005, 04:24 PM
  • RamsFan16
    Iowa, we're on to you
    by RamsFan16
    Iowa, we're on to you
    Hawkeyes too good to hoodwink nation once again
    Posted: Wednesday August 3, 2005 10:26AM; Updated: Wednesday August 3, 2005 12:40PM

    CHICAGO -- For three straight seasons, the Iowa Hawkeyes have won at least 10 games and finished in the top 10 of the final polls, each time after the preseason pollsters declared, in a nutshell, "There's no way can they do it again."

    No more.

    Various preview magazines and Web sites (including this one), apparently tired of being duped, have definitively declared the 2005 Hawkeyes to be a preseason top 10 team, in many cases ranking them ahead of Big Ten stalwarts Ohio State and/or Michigan (against whom Iowa has gone 3-2 and shared two of the past three league titles). Hawkeyes receiver Ed Hinkel is a tad perplexed about the timing of such predictions. "If anything, we should probably be lower than we have been in the past," the fifth-year senior said Tuesday at Big Ten media days. "I don't think we're as far ahead now as we've been in the past."

    Nice try, Ed, but you're not going to be pulling another fast one on us this year. Four new starters on the defensive line, two of whom have to replace All-Americans Matt Roth and Jonathan Babineaux? No proven running back? Injuries and inexperience at safety? Boo hoo. After watching Iowa go 10-2 last season despite losing two of its first four games, including an embarrassing 44-7 blowout at Arizona State, and despite losing a staggering four running backs to season-ending injuries and finishing 116th (out of 117) in the country in rushing offense, it's clear by now that no hurdle is too great for a Kirk Ferentz-coached team to overcome.

    In fact, each of the past three years has followed virtually the same script in Iowa City. Following a breakthrough, 11-2 season in 2002, the Hawkeyes had to replace Heisman runner-up quarterback Brad Banks, All-America tight end Dallas Clark and four starters off a powerful offensive line. What did they do in 2003? Go conservative on offense, make big plays on defense and special teams and beat Florida in the Outback Bowl to complete a 10-3 season.

    Last year, same story. Seven new starters on offense, no more Robert Gallery pancaking helpless defensive linemen, no more Bob Sanders making big plays in the secondary. And that was before all the running back injuries. Yet after struggling early, Iowa managed to finish the season on an eight-game winning streak, as first-year QB Drew Tate capped an All-Big Ten season with a game-winning, 56-yard touchdown pass to beat LSU as time expired in the Capital One Bowl.

    "I really don't know how we did it," Hinkel said of last year's improbable season. "One of our mottos we have posted all over our [football] complex is 'Find A Way.' That's what we did. It wasn't pretty; we weren't really a stats team. The only stat that...
    -08-10-2005, 06:49 PM
  • Nick
    Top 25 games of the season (or why the SEC still rules)
    by Nick
    Top 25 games of the season (or why the SEC still rules)
    By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer
    Aug. 26, 2011

    This season's five Ws -- who, what, when, where and wahoo!

    The games of the year (ranked 1-25):

    1. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 5: Seriously, can we hit the "sim" button on the season and just fast-forward to this mega-matchup? A lot of folks think these are the two best teams in the country. This game could decide the SEC West, the SEC and half of the BCS championship game. Alabama still has quarterback issues, but, oh, that defense. Speaking of quarterback issues, for all of his problems, Jordan Jefferson has missed only seven of 27 passes in his career against Alabama. Last year's 10-of-13 performance in Baton Rouge was one of the best of his career.

    2. Oklahoma at Florida State, Sept. 17: FSU has to prove it's back. No. 1 Oklahoma has to stay unblemished to continue its national championship run. The Sooners will have to win without leading tackler and best trash talker Travis Lewis. You get the feeling this is an all-in game for the 'Noles. In other words, if they do lose it's going to be hard to recover emotionally with a trip Clemson up next. Bottom line: OU can afford a loss. FSU can't.

    3. Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 26: Don't sleep on the Iron Bowl after last year's all-timer. Remember what has happened in the offseason -- the Toomer's Oaks, the tornado, Saban's 9-foot statue, the Cam Newton investigation hovering over it all. 'Bama will be favored but what will that mean? This is guaranteed to be one of the most emotional Iron Bowls ever.

    4. Oregon at Stanford, Nov. 12: This game should decide the Pac-12 North. (It feels funny just writing that.) It also could decide the Heisman given that the leading active vote getters are playing in this game (Andrew Luck, LaMichael James). This is the Cardinal's revenge game. There aren't many of them. After blowing a 21-3 lead last year at Oregon, Stanford watched the Ducks score 49 of the next 59 points.

    5. Nebraska at Wisconsin, Oct. 1: Anyone not wearing red gets smacked over the head with a full Leinenkugel's. This is what Jim Delany had in mind when he expanded the Big Ten. Inventory for the league, lots of hype and two top-11 teams. Big Ten title-game preview? Nebraska plays its first conference game in its new league. Wisconsin tries to remind the Huskers who's boss. Russell Wilson never faced a defense like this in the ACC.

    6. LSU-Oregon, Sept. 3 in Arlington, Texas: At this rate, patrolmen from Eugene and Baton Rouge will be going out for the coin toss. Call it in the air -- heads and Jordan Jefferson is suspended. Tails, Oregon receives -- another call from the NCAA. But seriously folks, this is one of the biggest season openers in years. The last time two top-five teams played on a neutral field to start the season was 1984. LSU will want to keep its momentum...
    -08-30-2011, 06:22 PM