Matt Campbell doesn’t put a lot of stock into preseason expectations. He says his program would have crumbled three years ago if players listened to expectations
Randy Peterson, email@example.com
AMES, Ia. — I know you’re skeptical whenever seeing ESPN’s “College GameDay” and Jack Trice Stadium in the same sentence.
I’d be doubting as well, when reading that Cy vs. Hawk in Ames is very high on Bristol’s radar.
After all, the popular college football weekend lead-in hasn’t been to a football game in Ames. The weekly college basketball Saturday morning show has been to Hilton Coliseum, but Jack Trice?
Last week’s news that “GameDay” will have a two-part Week One was significant for this fall’s Cy-Hawk matchup.
Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and host Rece Davis will preview top-ranked Clemson on Aug. 29 before the Georgia Tech game. Two days later, on Saturday Aug. 31, they’ll be in Arlington, Texas, for Oregon vs. Auburn. Beyond that, network decision-makers usually wait until the Saturday night or Sunday before each GameDay to announce where they’re headed next.
The other top contender that Saturday of the Cy-Hawk matchup? Top-ranked Clemson at Syracuse. So if ESPN goes with Clemson again, that would be twice within a month.
A couple well-placed people have told me that Iowa State hosting Iowa before the 3 p.m. game continues to be high on their Sept. 14 list of possibilities — and here’s why.
What has to happen?
Factor: Unbeaten teams
The USA Today Coaches’ preseason poll has Iowa No. 19 and Iowa State ranked 24th. The Hawkeyes open the season at home against Miami of Ohio and at home against Rutgers. Iowa State hosts Northern Iowa in its season-opener, and then doesn’t play until the Iowa game.
It’s the first time the Cyclones have been ranked in the preseason. Meanwhile, it’s the first preseason ranking for the Hawkeyes since 2016. Iowa was selected second in the Big Ten’s West Division by media, and Iowa State was picked third in the Big 12 Conference, so there’s also that.
A loss by either team before this game, though, and the ESPN folk probably delete Cy-Hawk from its list.
Factor: The New Coaches
ESPN could choose to highlight Kansas State’s Chris Kleiman or Nebraska’s Scott Frost, rookies at their respective schools. Kleiman, replacing legendary Bill Snyder, plays at Mississippi State on Sept. 14, while Frost hosts Northern Illinois. ESPN could go that way, or it could be at the Rose Bowl, where Oklahoma and UCLA tangle.
There’s plenty of time to zero in on the Sooners, UCLA isn’t in the preseason rankings — but that setting is always a possibility.
Factor: Disney World
That’s right. No. 23 Stanford plays at 17th-ranked Central Florida on Week Three, too. What if Stanford beats No. 25 Northwestern and USC in its first two games?
Add that to GameDay’s locations of interest — assuming Central Florida beats Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic in weeks one and two.
Cases in favor
There’s many reasons Cy-Hawk GameDay makes sense, not the least of which was a tweet last season, in which “The Bear,” also known as ESPN GameDay selection guru Chris Fallica, wrote that Iowa State was No. 1 on his go-list of Power Five places the popular show hasn’t been. So you know Jack Trice Stadium is in the heads of this show’s site selectors.
Reason No. 1: The Clemson Factor
The fact that they’re kicking off their season with a special Thursday-nighter featuring defending national champ and top-ranked Clemson speaks for itself. If you’re looking ahead and see Clemson at No. 22 Syracuse on Saturday Sept. 14 — it’s intriguing, too.
Reason No. 2: Presidential Factor
We know how much aspiring presidents like our state — especially during big events. They’ve flocked to the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox during the Iowa State Fair. They’ve been in our state daily, it seems. They like us. They need us.
And big events like Cy-Hawk football give them even more exposure in the nation’s first caucus state and on national television.
National network execs like presidential candidate, too. You never know when someone might break news or provide the ultimate soundbite.
Remember back in 2015 before this game — when then-Republican candidate Donald Trump was among four walking around before kickoff? Remember when then-Iowa State president Steven Leath actually walked Trump around inside the stadium and on the field? Remember when Trump signaled his upcoming visit that day with the following tweet:
“Will be in Iowa today for a speech and a football game at Jack Truce Stadium.”
Well, he was close …
Other Republican candidates like Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also mingled with tailgaters before that game was witnessed by a 61,500-fan sellout. Here’s a couple excerpts from the Register’s news story about politicians hanging with Cy-Hawk fans:
“Kiss my pug!” Des Moines resident Charlie Hoag told Trump, sticking his dog Scoobie Louis in the political celebrity’s face. Trump instead reached out to shake Hoag’s hand and said, “Thank you.”
When someone offered him a drink, Rand Paul said: “I do need a beer, but I’ve got to give a speech at about 6 o’clock tonight.” When pressed about the unlikelihood of being intoxicated by the consumption of just one can, Paul answered: “Yeah, but I’ve got six hours to, you know – I’ll be tired.”
And this from Wisconsin’s Walker: “You guys tailgate like at a Packer game.”
I’m guessing there will be presidential candidates at Cyclones vs. Hawkeyes — even if ESPN selects another venue. Maybe by then, Democrats will have whittled their roster of hopefuls. And maybe they’ll get the name of the stadium right.
Reason No 3: Popular and very outstanding players
One of the top true freshman quarterbacks in the country last season will be trying to elude the best college defensive end he may ever face. The veteran defensive end will seek to disrupt the now-sophomore second-season starter. In Cy-Hawk, it won’t get any better than that.
If he’s healthy, Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa will be an All-American. He’ll be the best player, regardless of position, that Iowa State faces this season. The 6-foot-6, 280-pounder is outstanding — a no-doubt NFL talent.
Meanwhile, Purdy completed 146 of 220 passes for 2,250 yards and 16 touchdowns while becoming a surprise regular midway through last season. He was 6-1 as a starter against Big 12 opponents. He was good enough to lead the Cyclones into the Alamo Bowl, the school’s most prestigious postseason football game. His passing rating of 169.91 was better than any other freshman quarterback — even Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. It was sixth nationally.
Epenesa could be Heisman … is Heisman material — and don’t forget this:
Kirk Ferentz, the dean of 2019 college football coaches, will be on one sidelines. Matt Campbell, who turned Iowa State into a respected program after just three seasons in his first Power Five head coaching gig, will be on the other.
There’s star power here.
You’re a Cy-Hawk GameDay skeptic. You’re won’t believe it until it’s official. I’m with you on that, but you know what?
There will be more pregame buzz about this game in our state than ever before — regardless what ESPN execs decide. It’s about the players. It’s not about who pumps them up on national television.
Randy Peterson is the Iowa State columnist for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at Des Moines Register.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.
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Source: Des Moines Register