Kansas will head to Ames late in the season for a showdown with a suddenly resurgent Iowa State program under head coach Matt Campbell, who just signed a new deal that will keep him him Ames through 2024 (at $3.5M per). Campbell is entering his fourth season at the helm of the Cyclones, and has won 8 games each of the past two seasons at ISU.
Kansas @ Iowa State
Nov 23, 2019, Time TBD
Ames, IA: Jack Trice Stadium
About the ISU Offense
Iowa State is losing its leading rusher (David Montgomery) and leading receiver (Hakeem Butler) from last year’s squad. Both are huge losses; Montgomery accounted for 68% of ISU’s rush yards, while Butler accounted for 42% of ISU’s receiving yards last year. All told, ISU is losing 53% of its total offensive production from last season. However, most of the offensive line returns, and Brock Purdy will be just a sophomore. Iowa State will have to find some playmakers at the so-called skill positions, but I like a team’s chances to do that with an experienced O-line and quarterback.
About the ISU Defense
Defensively, Iowa State returns 68% of its production from 2018, with four its top five tacklers from last year back, including top tackler Greg Eisworth. The Cylcones led the Big 12 in scoring defense last year, a feat that it looks like they’ll have a decent shot of repeating in 2019.
Updated S&P+ projections aren’t out yet, but we do have a couple of rankings we can look at. Bill Connelly did a pre-spring S&P+ ranking back in February of all 130 teams and has Iowa State at #43, or seventh in the Big 12.
Meanwhile, Athlon also ranked all 130 teams in pre-spring as well in March, and has the Cyclones at #22.
For reference, the Jayhawks were ranked #107 by S&P+ and #106 by Athlon.
On paper, this looks like a bad matchup for Kansas. Iowa State returns most of an experience offensive line along with their starting QB, which is usually a recipe for success. Throw in that ISU is coming off back-to-back 8-win seasons, has won four in a row against Kansas (and 8 of the last 9 matchups), and it’s even more obvious that the Cyclones are in a much better spot than KU coming out of the gate for 2019.
Ames has been a house of horrors for KU football in recent years. 2013 was the infamous “wrong cleats” game, and 2017 was a complete domination - Kansas had just five first downs the entire game, and didn’t cross its own 35-yard line until the fourth quarter. And the outcome last year in Lawrence wasn’t much better than Ames in 2017.
There’s really no reason (other than homerism) to pick the Jayhawks here. Campbell has it rolling at Iowa State, and the Cyclones will likely be playing for bowl positioning at this point in the season. Depending on how the season goes, I suppose you could make the argument that KU could have 4 wins at this point and fighting for its bowl hopes, but even so, ISU is at home, they’ve dominated the Jayhawks recently, and they haven’t had anything near the turnover or offseason turmoil that Kansas has had. I’ll go with Iowa State 34, Kansas 16.