Dec 31, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Paul Rhodes against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Stadium. Tulsa won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 2013 Football Preview: Cyclones' Hopes Set On 3rd Straight Bowl Trip

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a continuing series examing the Big 12 Conference and its 10 member schools as they prepare for the 2013 college football season.

Iowa State Cyclones

(2012 record: 6-7 in all games, 3-6 in Big 12)

Iowa State has managed to get to the six-win bowl-eligibility mark each of the last two seasons, and the Cyclones are hoping to make it three straight years and go bowling again  in 2013. That may be much easier said than done this season, however. The Cyclones have big concerns on both sides of the ball, and they will  be going with a relatively inexperienced starter at quarterback, although Sam Richardson did start the final two games in 2012.

“We have the least amount of starters returning in the Big 12 Conference,” head coach Paul Rhoads said in his opening comments during the Iowa State interview session last week at Big 12 Media Days. “(In) this year’s senior class, we’ve got 16 seniors. I think those 16 seniors are going to help us overcome the youth that will be out on the field for us.”

The 6-2, 205-pound  Richardson is reported to have a strong arm and is mobile enough ti jeep plays alive with his feet. The strength of the Iowa State offense probably rests at running back, where there is a full arsenal of talent. The Cyclones are looking foward to the return of senior Shontrelle Johnson, who is coming back from an ACL injury.

In addition to Johnson, there is senior James White, who led the Cyclones in rushing in 2012 with over 500 yards and a 5.1-yards-per-attempt average. Junior-college transfer Aaron Wimberly possesses blazing speed and will serve as a home-run threat when he gets his hands on the ball. They also have senior Jeff Woody, who didn’t play all that much last season, but is a load to bring down and has shown that he knows how to advance the ball.

Iowa State has a good, but not great offensive line, with four starters back, but what the offense is really lacking is playmakers to keep the chains moving and keep opposing defenses honest.

Defensively, coach Paul Rhoads’ team will sorely miss All-Big 12 linebackers, A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, who completed their eligibility after last season. The Cyclones also have a lot of inexperience up front on the defensive line, but they are loaded with experience in a very good secondary. They also have probably the best punter in the Big 12, if not the country, in senior Kirby Van Der Kamp. He averaged 41 yards per kick last season.

Iowa State has five road games this season, including tough non-conference games at in-state rival Iowa and at Tulsa. But the Cyclones do have Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU at home. “We’re going to take all this and approach a schedule that once again will be in the top 10, if not the top-five toughest in college football,” Rhoads said.

Projected 2013 finish: 7th, 3-9 overall, 2-7 in the Big 12

Next up: Baylor Bears

Tags: Big 12 2013 Fotball Preview College Football Iowa State Cyclones Paul Rhoads

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