Monday, July 19, 2004

Cyclones Picked to Finish Last

There are plenty of people who think reporters don’t know anything when it comes to making football predictions.

Well, let’s hope those people are right. Why? Because reporters are saying that Iowa State is going to finish the 2004 football season right where it wound up in 2003—dead last in the North Division of the Big 12 Conference standings.

Kansas State is picked to win the North in the reporters’ vote. Oklahoma is picked to win the South. Missouri, Nebraska (in Bill Callahan’s first season as coach), Colorado, Kansas and Iowa State are picked to follow K-State in the North, in that order.

Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Baylor are picked in that order to follow Oklahoma in the South.

Actually, reporters have done pretty well in picking Big 12 divisional winners in the past. They’ve been correct in 10 of the first 16.

Iowa State will be trying to rebound from an 0-8 record in the Big 12 last season and a 2-10 overall record.

Not much improvement is expected. The Sporting News, in its preseason Big 12 magazine, picked the Cyclones to go 1-7 in the conference, with the victory over Kansas on Oct. 30, and 3-8 overall, with Northern Iowa and Northern Illinois being the other victims.

No Iowa State players are picked by reporters to be first-team all-Big 12. Darren Sproles, Kansas State’s 5-7, 180-pound senior running back, was chosen the offensive player of the year, Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson was picked the defensive player of the year and Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson was picked the newcomer of the year.


The Big 12 media days are Tuesday through Thursday in Kansas City. This is when head coaches and various players from each school are brought in to be interviewed by reporters.

Three players—tailback Stevie Hicks, defensive back Ellis Hobbs and defensive end Jason Berryman—will accompany Iowa State coach Dan McCarney to the Wednesday session.

Hicks led Iowa State in rushing as a redshirt freshman last season with 471 yards in 123 carries. Hobbs has made 122 tackles the past two seasons, and Berryman was a first-team freshman all-American last season after making 110 tackles.


McCarney, whose nine-year record is 38-67 at Iowa State, is ranked the 10th-best coach in the Big 12 by the Sporting News.

“His program’s three-year streak of bowl trips ended last season, but Iowa State isn’t dumping him after sticking with him through thick and thin for nine years,” the magazine wrote. “But to be shut out of the postseason again would undo his earlier success.”

Mark Mangino of Kansas and Guy Morriss of Baylor are the coaches listed behind McCarney.

Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, the former Iowa player who was the fans’ choice as the successor to Hayden Fry as the Hawkeyes’ coach, is the Sporting News’ pick as the Big 12’s No. 1 coach.

“Save for late-season disintegrations the last two years, Stoops has been at the top of his profession,” the magazine said. “He claimed the 2000 national title and played for all the marbles last year. Why? Because few are better than the Visored One when it comes to making decisions on Saturday afternoons.”


Barney Cotton, who is in his first year at Iowa State, is listed as the fourth-best offensive coordinator in the Big 12 by the Sporting News—behind Mike Leach of Texas Tech, Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State and former Iowa player and assistant coach Chuck Long at Oklahoma.

“After a disastrous 2003 season, Steve Brickey is out (at Iowa State) and Cotton, the former Nebraska offensive coordinator, is in,” wrote the Sporting News. “Cotton likes a physical, tough offense where most things are based off the running game and did a nice job of improving the Huskers’ attack. Better health on the offensive line will help.”

Nick Quartaro, a former Iowa player, Drake head coach and Iowa State assistant coach, is listed as the sixth-best offensive coordinator. He’s now at Kansas. Jay Norvell, a former Iowa player and Iowa State assistant, is tabbed the 12th-best. He’s in his first season at Nebraska.

Del Miller, a co-offensive coordinator at Kansas State, is listed 11th along with co-coordinator Greg Peterson. Miller is a former Iowa assistant coach who almost got the Iowa State head coaching job when McCarney was picked.

Bobby Elliott, a former Iowa player who was an assistant with the Hawkeyes and at Iowa State, is listed as the Sporting News’ second-best offensive coordinator in the Big 12. Iowa State’s John Skladany is ranked No. 9.

“Defense was a key during the Cyclones’ three-season bowl run, but production dropped last year,” the magazine said. “The biggest culprit was a pass rush that ranked last in the Big 12 in sacks. An iffy secondary must be protected by a better rush.”


George Wine of Coralville sent this e-mail after my column last week about the “Throwback Game” Iowa will play Sept. 4 in its season opener against Kent State:

“Ron – Enjoyed your piece on the Throwback Game. If they really want to go back to how football was played 75 years ago, they will let the quarterback call the plays, dropkick field goals, take the coaches out of the press box and have sportswriters sip whiskey and smoke cigars.

“I was going to suggest they cut coaches’ pay to about $5,000 but, hey, we can only go so far. I note you call Mike Hlas the best sports columnist in the state. I’m going to tell Sean Keeler what you said.”

[NOTE: I’m sure there might be one or two sportswriters sipping whiskey (or some other alcoholic beverage) in the press box, whether anyone knows it or not. The closest I came to having whiskey in a press box came a number of years ago following a Minnesota-Missouri game at Columbia, Mo. You know it was quite a while ago because the local paper was still covering games like than then. Shortly after the game ended, a guy from a Minneapolis paper reached under the desk, pulled out a pint of whiskey and said, “Do you want a drink?” I passed that time because I had to make that horrible Columbia-to-Des Moines drive that night. However, I recall when beer was available in a number of college press boxes after games, and I didn’t pass then. Now most have eliminated it because of liability issues. However, as far as I know, beer is still available in NFL press boxes. As for the cigars, you’d better go outdoors, pal. No cheering and no smoking in the press box anymore. And I’ll stand on my claim that Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette is the state’s best newspaper sports columnist].


Hlas, a funny guy, sent this e-mail after my “Throwback Game” column:


I’ll buy your coffee after those generous words [about being called the state’s No. 1 newspaper sports columnist].

“I wouldn’t buy anybody’s jersey. I don’t collect sports memorabilia. The only things I think I’ve kept over the years are a Sun Bowl mouse pad (I’ll use it someday) and a pair of ear plugs I bought at Hilton Coliseum during the Hoiberg/Meyer/Michalik era that I should have used that night.”

[NOTE: I wrote that I’d meet Hlas in Solon on the morning of an Iowa home game. I’d wear a replica of the Iowa uniform that will be used in the Throwback Game and Hlas could wear the Kent State uniform. But it looks like he’s passing on that opportunity, even though I appreciate his offer to buy the coffee. I’ll take mine black, Mike].


An item that may have slipped through the cracks around here was the one involving Bret Bielema being named the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin after being the co-defensive coordinator along with Bobby Elliott at Kansas State.

Bielema is the fiery former Iowa player and assistant coach. He got everybody’s attention after his Hawkeyes beat Iowa State, 21-7, in 1992 for the 10th straight time. Iowa went on to a 15th consecutive victory in the series before Dan McCarney ended the streak with a 27-9 victory for Iowa State in 1998.

After the 1992 game, Bielema confronted Jim Walden, who then was Iowa State’s head coach, at midfield in Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

“You’re a big prick, and I enjoyed kicking your ass for five years,” Bielema told the bewildered Walden.

Bielema was also counting his redshirt season when he said he enjoyed whipping Walden for five seasons.

Bielema was undoubtedly reflecting the thoughts of Iowa’s entire football program when he made his comments.

However, he was ordered to apologize to Iowa State for his comments, which he did by telegram, a rather strange way of doing things.

Being a co-coordinator at Kansas State and the coordinator at Wisconsin makes Bielema a favorite to be picked a head coach at a place like Wisconsin or Iowa in the future.

Vol. 4, No. 244
July 19, 2004