Coach: Dan McCarney (11th season, 45-72) 2004 record: 7-5 (Beat Miami Ohio in Independence Bowl) Big 12 finish: 4-4 (t-1st North) 2004 I-A offensive rankings:Rushing: 73rd (141.8 ypg) Passing: 79th (187.3 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 46th (139.2 ypg) Passing: 20th (190.3 ypg)
at Texas A&M
Depth Chart: Offense
6 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
7 returning starters in red
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Iowa State heads into the 2005 season loaded with something it hasn't always had -- confidence.
After limping to an 0-8 Big 12 season in '03, the Cyclones rebounded a year ago to claim a share of the Big 12 North title. Iowa State now believes there's no team it can't compete with and no odds it can't overcome. "We believe we have a chance to win every game," said junior receiver Austin Flynn.
Thanks to a wealth of proven talent, Iowa State should be considered a legitimate threat to win the mediocre North Division. The Cyclones' hopes hinge largely on Bret Meyer's right arm. The super sophomore is not only a team leader but also the most important piece to the Cyclone puzzle.
Meyer had a solid freshman season and flourished toward the end of the year as the offense averaged 407 yards its last four games.
Meyer started every game last year and by the end of his freshman season, he showed he may be ready to be considered one of the Big 12's best quarterbacks. Meyer's teammates trust him and even look up to him, rare for a player in just his second season.
The tailback spot is set with 1,000-yard rusher Stevie Hicks. However, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Hicks carried more than his share of the load a year ago -- he was responsible for more than half of ISU's rushing attempts -- and needs some help from backups Jason Scales and Greg Coleman.
Meyer's favorite target a year ago, his roommate, Todd Blythe, is coming off of offseason knee surgery but vows to come into the Sept. 3 opener at full strength. Receiver could be ISU's deepest position with Flynn, a converted quarterback, working his way up the depth chart.
The offensive line should continue to improve under second-year offensive coordinator/line coach Barney Cotton. Junior tackle Aaron Brant has started all but two games in his career and will need to be sharp as the Cyclones break in two new starters.
Four senior starters will be missed, but the coaches are confident the depth built up last year will be enough to keep the Cyclones' defense at a high level. The starting 11 is well-established. When those players leave the field, however, the Cyclones aren't so sure the backups can play at the same level.
Up front, interior guys Nick Leaders and Brent Curvey are rock-solid, while former walk-on Shawn Moorehead is turning into a fine pass rusher off the edge.
There is a drop-off from Tim Dobbins to the rest of ISU's linebackers. A key part of the equation is whether junior college transfer Alvin Bowen can contribute right away. The Cyclones like to play 5-6 linebackers in order to keep everyone fresh.
Senior safeties Nik Moser and Steve Paris know one another well and are fast and athletic, as is rising star DeAndre Jackson at cornerback.
It could come down to the final few days of two-a-day practices before coaches settle on a No. 1 kicker. Walk-on Bret Culbertson had the edge coming out of spring ball, though sixth-year senior Tony Yelk also was right there. If he doesn't win the job outright he will at least be ISU's long-distance guy.
Who returns punts and kickoffs also is a concern as the top three returners at those spots have all left the program.
The stars may be aligned for Iowa State to win its first outright Big 12 North Division title. The Cyclones return many of the players who made significant contributions to the team that shared the title a year ago.
The once-mighty division has fallen on hard times. Iowa State will find out quickly whether it belongs among the favorites: The Cyclones host Iowa on Sept. 10 and open the conference schedule Oct. 1 at Nebraska.
They do not play either Texas or Oklahoma from the South, setting up a potential season to remember in Ames.