No quarterback has been named yet, but this mini controversy took an interesting turn when Grant Rohach was listed at the top of the depth chart Monday without an "or" next to his name. An hour afterward, Paul Rhoads held his press conference, and said it's possible Sam Richardson could start; he said he hadn't decided anything.
Rohach didn't act like he thought he was starting, saying he found out he was atop the depth chart via text message from his cousin. He hadn't been told anything at that point.
With that said, I would be surprised if Richardson started. I think the coaches are going to give Rohach the chance. They don't have much to lose. Richardson is their preferred guy, but he's been banged up all season. The quarterbacks are very similar, Richardson being more mobile (when he's healthy) and Rohach perhaps having a stronger arm, although we haven't gotten to see him yet in a full game. They'll run the same offense, with some of the read-option stuff, and focus on the intermediate passing game.
A few things. This is a very young team and with the way the schedule has broken, there was no time to gel until conference play hit. Fourteen freshmen and sophomore (one true freshman) have played this season. That's not uncommon at a big school in a talent hotbed, because that school's getting players who are ready and able to contribute as freshmen. With a few exceptions, Iowa State's not bringing in guys who are ready for that role. Injuries have been a major problem. Like TCU, it's easier to say who hasn't been injured rather than who has.
What I mean by the schedule thing, is Iowa State had the season opener, and then a bye. And then a game against Iowa, and then a bye. And then Tulsa and Texas. That's really tough for a young team not to have much time on the field together before a brutal slate — Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State — hits.
But then, this isn't a good football team, with an offense that is among the worst in the country and a defense that breaks way more than it bends. The Cyclones know that. They should be better than 1-7, with some close losses to begin the year, but they understand they have a lot of work to do in the offseason.
3. The defense has given up some big points on defense since the Texas game; has their been an emotional letdown since that game?
I didn't think the defense was even that bad the week after to Texas Tech. That unit has slipped since then, but up until that point, it was still a sound group that didn't miss many tackles and played assignment football. It's really hard for them because they're out on the field so much, and it must feel pretty hopeless to keep playing in 0-7, 0-14, 0-21, games, knowing your offense can't give you anything. They just get worn down. Yes, they're missing too many tackles recently and missing their gaps, and they've dropped too many interceptions in the secondary. But this is a much better defense than the stats would say, and I think their numbers will level out after the TCU, West Virginia and Kansas games.
4. The Cyclones have started a different lineup along the offensive line every game this season, will that be the same against the Frogs?
Actually, the offensive line got to start the same unit last week for the first time all season. They've had five starting linemen miss games with injury, and there's a chance tackle Daniel Burton misses this week with an ankle injury. There's also a chance tackle Jacob Gannon returns from an MCL injury, but he won't play the whole game. Burton began the year at guard but slid down to tackle once Gannon suffered his injury. It's been a mess and it's been hard to keep track of. So it's possible the Cyclones will start a different unit than last week, but it's once that should be improved with a few players returning from injury.
5. What are your keys for the Cyclones to win their first Big 12 game of the season?
A few things. The Cyclones haven't scored on an opening drive all season with four three-and-outs, they need to get something going to get the 11 a.m. crowd into it and keep their defense from playing behind so early. A healthy running back in Aaron Wimberly, who rushed for 100 yards against Tulsa and Texas but has been injured since, would help. He's projected to return from a hamstring injury. Iowa State really needs him. And they have to stop missing tackles. There were 17 whiffs against Oklahoma State and more, I think, against Kansas State. That's such a simple key, but against an opponent like TCU, which doesn't boast a very explosive offense, you can't allow your mistakes to make them look like world-beaters. ISU is without weakside linebacker Luke Knott, who's missed the last two games with a hip injury and is out for the year. The gap containment, and effective tackling, has been off since he went out