The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 78: Iowa State
Coach: Paul Rhoads (18-20, fourth season)
2011 record: 6-7 (3-6 in Big 12 Conference, eighth overall)
Look back: Iowa State has been making strides under Paul Rhoads. In the three seasons under Rhoads, the program has gone to two bowl games including last season’s Pinstripe Bowl appearance. There have been some monumental victories as well including last season’s 44-41 triple-overtime win over in-state rival Iowa on Sept. 10 and the Cyclones’ 37-31 double-overtime win over then-No. 2 Oklahoma State. The later most likely knocking the Cowboys out of contention for the BCS national championship.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 5/6
Defensive starters lost/returning: 4/7
Key losses: OL Kelechi Osemele, RG Hayworth Hicks, WR Darius Reynolds, WR Darius Darks, DE Patrick Neal, DE Jake Lattimer, Leonard Johnson, S Ter’Ran Benton
Top returnees: QB Jared Barnett, QB Steele Jantz, WR Josh Lenz, RB James White, RB Jeff Woody, LB A.J. Klein, LB Jake Knott
Strengths: Injuries and ineffectiveness led to the Cyclones being forced to play two quarterbacks most of last season. Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett had big performances last season – both were 3-0 in their first starts – and both bring different skill sets to the table. Which makes the biggest question going into the fall: who will start? Jantz threw for 1,519 yards with 10 touchdowns while Barnett threw for 1,201 yards with six touchdowns. Both struggled with consistency and turnovers – Jantz threw 11 interceptions and Barnett threw six – however Barnett was second on the team in rushing with 437 yards and a score. James White and Jeff Woody combined for over 1,100 yards rushing last season and both will be called on to carry the rushing load especially if Shontrelle Johnson hasn’t fully recovered from a neck injury that sidelined him most of 2011 and the spring.
Weaknesses: Iowa State’s defense is led by the linebacking duo of A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. Klein and Knott combined for 131 total tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss. The unit was sixth in the Big 12 Conference in total defense (427.5 yards per game) and third in pass defense (234.0). However, Rhoads and his staff need to find someone who can pressure the quarterback. Defensive ends Patrick Neal and Jake Lattimer are gone and so are their 6.5 sacks from last season.
Outlook: Finding a starting quarterback will be Concern One with this team going into the fall. Both Jantz and Barnett have the skills to lead this team however both need to cut out the turnovers. New offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham will need to find a way to get the most of the pair. The schedule features some big tests but as the Cyclones proved last season, they are up to the challenge. A date with Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia could go a long way to keeping this program moving ahead.
Sept. 1 Tulsa
Sept. 8 at Iowa
Sept. 15 Western Illinois
Sept. 29 Texas Tech
Oct. 6 at TCU
Oct. 13 Kansas State
Oct. 20 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 27 Baylor
Nov. 3 Oklahoma
Nov. 10 at Texas
Nov. 17 at Kansas
Nov. 24 West Virginia
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