AMES, Ia. — With only three teams ranked in the preseason Coaches Poll it’s obvious the perception of the Big 12 has changed in the world of College Football.
It’s the first time since 2015 the league failed to have four or more teams ranked in the preseason poll. However, Iowa State is one of those ranked teams and Matt Campbell sees no issues with the direction of the conference. The Cyclones are in unfamiliar territory being ranked No. 24 and will face the challenges of dealing with success.
Still, having the Cyclones ranked is beneficial for the league. The Big 12 is entering its’ 23rd season of football and welcomed four new coaches at Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Les Miles, Chris Klieman, Neal Brown and Matt Wells all have different philosophies and coaching styles that should increase the conference’s credibility through the transition.
Currently the Big 12 is viewed as a finesse league, with high-flying offenses and defenses that give up a lot of points. Campbell’s Cyclones are an exception because they are one of the few teams in the league that found success by playing solid defense.
The numbers don’t lie and the Cyclones finished No. 1 and 2 in scoring defense and went 11-7 in Big 12 play the past two seasons. The team has an identity and Campbell has changed the culture of the program. It’s possible the four new Big 12 coaches might adapt the same motto.
“When you build a program you build a program to win as fast as you can and you build it from the inside out,” Campbell said. “When you build a program inside out you have real life discussions of what the process you really want to go is going to feel like.”
The Cyclones are currently experiencing that feeling, being ranked in the preseason Coaches Poll for the first time ever as a Big 12 member. It solidifies that Campbell has Iowa State trending up.
In the Big 12 every team plays each other and Iowa State will provide a quality opponent for the other teams around the league. It all helps down the road in terms of strength of schedule and when it comes to the Big 12’s bowl pecking order. As for now Campbell is trying to keep his players focused and block out all the outside noise, but that’s easier said than done.
“This is the period where you have 100 people that can handle adversity, but it’s the one great team or one great person that has the ability to handle positivity,” he said. “If we listened to the outside world the last few years we would’ve crumbled and let the outside world tell us what we could and couldn’t do.”
The Oklahoma and Texas brands have become synonymous with the Big 12 while the other programs have a tough time keeping up. Now it’s the perfect opportunity for Iowa State to solidify itself as a major player in the league.
With the spotlight on the Cyclones they can show the rest of the country that you a team can get it done the blue collar way in the Big 12. Soon we’ll find out if the conference is trending toward competitive defensive play with all the new personalities and coaching styles.
“I think history would say those are coaches whose teams had success because they had complete programs,” Campbell said. “They play great offense, they play great defense and special teams, but what our team is good at is we play good complimentary football.”