The Cyclones get some seasoning from their non-conference schedule, but find a way to go 3-0 for a second straight season, this time against Northern Iowa and Iowa at home and then at Tulsa. They tinker with the Pistol offense delivered by new offensive line coach Chris Klenakis, who learned it from the master when he worked for Chris Ault at Nevada.
Then they spring it on Texas in the Big 12 opener for both schools and the Cyclones use the upset to grab everyone’s attention – and that one’s on a Thursday night in Ames, where someone seems to get shocked every season.
Iowa State then gets a bit of a breather with a nine-day break to figure out how to deal with success, but maintains its rhythm and then navigates a brutal stretch to end the season. That’d be eight Big 12 games on eight straight Saturdays, but it’s a little easier closing at home against Kansas and at West Virginia when both teams have already lost their seventh game and can’t reach a bowl.
The offense develops the most potent running game in the Big 12 with veterans Shontrelle Johnson and James White leading the way while junior college transfer Aaron Wimberly emerges as one of the league’s top newcomers and biggest single-play threats.
The Cyclones keep it modest on offense, which pairs well with a stout defense. Defensive end Willie Scott and linebacker Jeremiah George play at a high level in the front while the secondary, keyed by what becomes the league’s best safety tandem in seniors Deon Broomfield and Jacques Washington, keep everything in front of them.