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Big 12 Football Countdown: No.10 Iowa State

For the first time in a long time, Kansas won't be the worst team in the Big 12 next season. Iowa State will.

Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE

Note: We're kicking off our Big 12 previews as we lead up to Big 12 media days. Byron is going to be handling these for us. We certainly welcome any and all debate because I personally think Iowa State and Paul Rhoads overachieve once again, that's what they've been doing : ) Byron is not of that persuasion. Thanks Byron, and let's kick this off - Owen

Paul Rhoads has enjoyed moderate success while at Iowa State, but his Cyclone team could be looking at a bit of a dip in Ames this season. A brutal Big 12 schedule doesn't exactly offer Iowa State any easy wins, and a non conference featuring Iowa and Tulsa aren't necessarily assured victories for the Cyclones either. Offensively Iowa State wasn't exactly "explosive" in 2013, ranking 9th in the Big 12 and 92nd overall with just 364.2 yards per game. The quarterback situation was a mess in Ames last season as the Cyclones used a bit of a three-man rotation that included QB Steele Jantz and QB Jared Barnett. QB Sam B. Richardson is the favorite to start for the Cyclones, though he will have to accumulate far more passing yards than his predecessor if the Cylones expect to be competitive this season. Iowa State relied heavily on defense to win many of their games last year, but with just four defensive starters returning, the defense could be in a rebuilding mode for 2013.

2012 Record: 6-7 (3-6)

Returning Starters: 11 (5 OFF, 4 DEF, 2 ST)

Key Losses on Offense: QB Steele Jantz (1603 yds. 13 TD), WR Josh Lenz (459 yds. 6 TD), WR Aaron Horne (370 yds. 3 TD)

Key Losses on Defense: LB Jake Knott, LB, A.J. Klein, DL Jake McDonough, S Durrell Givens, CB Jeremy Reeves, DL Cleyon Laing

Head Coach: Paul Rhoads: 24-27 (5th Year)

Strength: Offensive Depth

QB Sam B. Richardson (541 yds. 8 TD) wasn't exactly Heisman material last season, but he will have a deep rotation of receivers to throw to. WR Ernst Brun (370 yds. 3 TD), WR Jarvis West (290 yds. 3 TD) and WR Quenton Bundrage (232 yds. 2 TD) will have to make up most of the passing game, which is looking like it will be as miserable as it was last year. Instead Iowa State will again rely on their backfield for most of their offense. More specifiably the Cyclones will look to RB James White (505 yds. 2 TD) and RB Shontrelle Johnson (504 yds. 2 TD). However, last year was any indicator, running the ball more than passing it doesn't win you many games in the Big 12, *cough cough* Kansas, *cough*

Weakness/Questions: Defensive Front

Having the 99th worst passing defense (265.3 PYPG) in the Big 12 is one thing, but having just four defensive starters returning is a whole other matter. It's hard to know exactly what to expect in that situation, but Iowa State will likely experience some growing pains. What Iowa State should really be concerned about is the defensive front. LB Jeremiah George (87 TOT) and DE Willie Scott (37 TOT) are the only returning starters to a front seven that ranked 75th in rushing yards allowed per game with 176.9, and that was in the Big 12! LB Jevohn Miller (22 TOT) has the most experience and will have to step up big for the Cyclones next season.

Projected Record: 3-9 (0-9)

Bowl Game: None