Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Eye on College Football examines what current hot topic the fans of one BCS team are obsessing over -- rationally or not. Today's team: the Iowa State Cyclones.
What they're talking about is ... the spring game. A game that, like many others around the country, was just played on Saturday. Considering the Cyclones are coming off a 3-9 season that saw them go 2-7 in the Big 12, while the basketball program just made a Sweet Sixteen run, you can understand the overall lack of excitement about football at the moment. That being said, there were still plenty of questions heading in to the spring game that fans were hoping to see answered.
First of all, there's new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. Saturday provided the first chance for most fans to see exactly what changes Mangino would be bringing to an offense that finished No. 97 nationally in total offense (363.0 yards per game) and No. 90 in scoring offense (24.8 points per game). While fans saw but a glimpse, there did seem to be somewhat of an answer to the question about the quarterback competition. Grant Rohach, who took over the starting role down the stretch last season, throwing for 661 yards and six touchdowns in Iowa State's final two games (both wins), took the majority of snaps with the first team on Saturday. So it appears that he's the clear-cut leader for the job this fall.
Then there's the defense. Iowa State returns 16 starters from the 2013 team, but 10 of them are on offense. There are a lot of holes to fill on a defense that finished dead last in the Big 12 in yards per game (No. 106 nationally) and points allowed per game (No. 109 nationally). It's obviously an area of concern.
What they're saying is ... LOOK AWAY, CHILDREN, LOOK AWAY. Okay, so it's not quite that bad. Though I must point out that in its spring game preview Iowa State site Wide Right and Natty Light previewed the defense in less than optimistic fashion.
Here's what the site had to say after the game:
-- "The defensive line is still patchwork at best and the reliability of the safeties is anyone's guess, but overall, the defense performed a little better than expected on Saturday. Starting up front, you don't lose Rodney Coe, David Irving and Brandon Jensen and get better. The Cyclones are young on the line and the casual fan had better buy a program, at least for the first few games because there's going to be a lot of 'who was that?' and 'who in the hell is number...'."
-- "Moving to the next level, if there's an all Big 12 linebacker on this team, I'm not seeing it. In each of Wally Burnham's five years in Ames, he's had at least one linebacker earn all conference recognition. That streak comes to an end this season. With Luke Knott still out and Jordan Harris still making the transition from junior college to Big 12 ball, this position group could be a far cry from serviceable."
-- "In the secondary, I think Iowa State will get solid corner play out of Nigel Tribune and Sam E. Richardson, but the safety position is concerning to say the least. T.J. Mutcherson and Kamari Cotton-Moya ran with the first string, but these guys just haven't seen enough snaps and field time yet. This could be the weakest group of safeties in some time for Iowa State football."
What we're saying is ... we'd be extremely worried about the defense too. Offense is fun. Offense, for the most part, is what football fans enjoy more than any other aspect of the game. It's just exciting to see big plays on offense, and to see your team putting up 40 points or more in a game. If your team scores that many points it means you've had at least six reasons to celebrate over the course of a game.
But a bad defense can suck the life out of you over the course of a 12-game season. Continually seeing your defense allow touchdown after touchdown, making any offensive success your team finds irrelevant, is a repeated punch to the stomach. Just as soon as you get your wind back, it's knocked right out of you.
You might be able to get to six wins and a bowl game with an excellent offense and a poor defense, but that's generally your ceiling. And when you're in a conference like the Big 12, which features a great offense just about every where you look, defense is what makes the difference between the conference champ and an also-ran more often than not.