The first game of the season is always full of uncertainty for programs.
Players have spent the past 30 days battling their teammates, but the measuring stick starts with the first kickoff. Although mistakes are made and weaknesses get exposed, coaches quickly find out how much their players have progressed.
Matt Campbell is one of the best coaches in the Big 12, but for some reason throughout his tenure in Ames, Iowa State has had a tendency of starting slow out of the gates. Rather it’s a matter of overlooking a foe, motivation or preparation, the Cyclones are 3-3 in season openers under Campbell.
Some fans feel that the team often times play down to the level of their competition. It’s hard to argue against that when two of the Cyclones’ opening losses were to inferior squads. Campbell’s boys seem like they perform better as the hunters instead of being the hunted.
Northern Iowa spoiled Campbell’s first game as Iowa State’s coach. The Cyclones struggled at Jack Trice to put away the Panthers in 2020. Not to mention Iowa State was No. 23 in the 2020 preseason AP Poll when it lost at home to unranked Louisiana-Lafayette.
Now Iowa State is hosting another foe from the FCS ranks in Southeast Missouri State Saturday morning. This time around the Cyclones are unranked though, but are still the superior team in talent and the favorite on paper. Still, it’s any given Saturday and upsets happen all the time.
And the Cyclones are reloading on offense, with a new starter at quarterback, running back and tight end. That’s why it’s important that coaches find out who their leaders are in fall camp. Everyone has to stay dialed in on the task at hand. Adversity can strike at anytime, but it’s how the players respond to it.
The Redhawks have nothing to lose in this clash, and will be leaving with a nice paycheck for just showing up to play the game. A ton of Iowa State fans are anxious to see what life after Brock Purdy and Breece Hall is like this fall. Some are expecting growing pains, while other anticipate a smooth transition.
Regardless of the matter, the fans want their team to change the recent narrative. Fans want to see the team make a statement in game, but Campbell will be perfectly fine with a victory. Like always, rival Iowa will be looming in week two. So sometimes it’s challenging for the Cyclones to put away a scrappy team and not reveal too much of their playbook to the Hawkeyes.
Expectations aren’t as high as the previous two seasons for Iowa State. The Cyclones are always dangerous when they fly under the radar though. And what a better way to bring in the Hunter Dekkers era than a convincing victory. After all, the talent is there and the potential has been promising, so expect Campbell to have his crew locked, loaded and ready Saturday morning.