The Big 12 Conference is opting for a 10-game football schedule this year due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nine conference games will be played, as well as a single nonconference contest.
Following a third consecutive winning season in 2019, will the Iowa State Cyclones make the most of the altered 2020 season?
Big 12 votes for 10-game schedule in 2020
On Monday, the board of directors for the Big 12 voted to have its football programs play an adjusted schedule this fall.
Each squad has a schedule consisting of nine Big 12 contests and one nonconference clash.
According to the Des Moines Register, Big 12 Conference games have, “an anticipated start sometime between mid-to-late September with the expectation that nonconference games are contested prior to beginning league games.”
The conference championship game is slated for Dec. 12 or Dec. 19. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a press release:
“We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward. However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”
Iowa State originally had three nonconference games on its 2020 slate. The Cyclones scheduled home games with South Dakota (Sept. 5), Ball State (Sept. 12) and UNLV (Sept. 26). It is unclear which nonconference opponent Iowa State will face as of now.
Ball State was a replacement for its annual rivalry game with Iowa that was canceled when the Big Ten Conference opted for a conference-only schedule in 2020.
Oddsmakers see Iowa State outside the Big 12 favorites
Oddsmakers expect the usual suspects to be the top contenders for the Big 12 championship. There are multiple options for betting on Cyclones football.
According to oddsmakers at William Hill Sportsbook, Oklahoma is the favorite to claim the championship. The Sooners are listed with +100 odds.
Texas isn’t far behind, listed at +150. Oklahoma State sits third in the odds at +500, while odds on Iowa State comes in a distant fourth at +1,500. TCU, West Virginia and Baylor all come in at +2,500.
Oklahoma has won all three Big 12 Conference championship games since the title match resumed in 2017. The Sooners have won the last five overall Big 12 championships.
Iowa State is seeking its first Big 12 championship in program history. The Cyclones have yet to appear in a Big 12 championship game.
Iowa State not lacking in skill players on offense
Matt Campbell steps into his fifth season as head coach of Iowa State in 2020.
Campbell is 26-25 through four seasons. However, he has posted a winning record in three consecutive seasons. That includes three straight bowl appearances. His Big 12 record is 18-18.
The 2019 Cyclones were sound with the football. Offensively, Iowa State was fifth in the Big 12 at 32.2 points per game.
Iowa State has reason to be optimistic that it can contend in scoring with the top teams in the Big 12 this season.
Brock Purdy returns under center to lead the way. The junior quarterback led the Big 12 in passing with 3,982 yards. He threw for 27 touchdowns and also rushed for 249 yards and eight scores. Purdy is among the Maxwell Award watch list honorees for 2020.
Receiver Tarique Milton and tight end Charlie Kolar return as juniors for Campbell and Iowa State. The two combined for 86 receptions, 1,419 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019.
Sophomore running back Breece Hall rushed for 897 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman for Iowa State. Campbell is high on Hall’s breakout ability for this season.
The main concern for the offense will be up front. Iowa State graduated a combined 146 starts among the offensive linemen. The 2019 offensive line gave up a league-low 18 sacks.
Cyclones look to improve on creating turnovers
Defensively, Iowa State allowed 25.9 per game, which ranked third in the conference.
Creating turnovers wasn’t a high point, as the Cyclones had just 13 for the entire 2019 season. Their six team interceptions ranked ninth in the Big 12.
Iowa State’s defensive front made a great impact, gathering 28 sacks and 85 tackles for loss.
Turnovers could improve this season behind an experienced secondary. Lawrence White IV, Greg Eisworth II and Anthony Johnson Jr. are among returning starters who combined for 209 tackles and three interceptions last fall. White is the team’s leading returning tackle from 2019 with 84.
Junior linebacker O’Rien Vance disrupted many plays up front in 2019. Vance had 6.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss to be among the team’s defensive leaders.