May 18, 2007

Big 12 Breakdown: Iowa State

Gene Chizik and his staff have arrived. Now Iowa State fans expect the third highest-paid coaching staff to deliver six wins and maybe even a bowl appearance this fall. A bit lofty? Perhaps, considering the Cyclones return admittedly thin at many spots and will face six Big 12 bowl teams in succession, including Texas - a team Chizik knows all-too well - to start the league season.

BRIEFLY: Chizik plans to keep Cyclones off the ropes in first season

Gene Chizik, the former Texas defensive coordinator who was accustomed to guiding dominating units, made an interesting albeit cliché analogy coming out of the spring that best summarized the Cyclones' stance.

"We have a long way to go but we have four months to get where we need to be," he said. "We'll go out in the fall and go round two and see what happens."

Iowa State won't get a heavyweight when it opens the season against Kent State at home Aug. 30. It might seem that way to players, though, as Chizik and his staff continues to prepare them for the start of the new era. A school-record 32,000 season tickets were sold in the spring, as optimism runs high for the Cyclones - they came within a field goal of winning a pair of North crowns before going 4-8 - to grow better with every round, or opponent, that is.

Bret Meyer returns as the only active quarterback with more than 7,000 yards passing and 400 yards rushing and has established nearly every Iowa State passing record, but the 2006 preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection fell out of the top 10 in the Big 12 in passing efficiency (104.98) during league games with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions in eight contests.

Linebacker Alvin Bowen had a Big 12-leading 155 tackles but the gaudy numbers didn't translate into first-team All-Big 12 honors in the Big 12 coaches' eyes. Bowen, a junior college transfer in '05, will lead a defense that allowed a Big 12-worst 6.1 yards per play.

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