The Big 12 has officially been turned upside down. No. 25 Iowa State, a Big 12 basement dweller in the round-robin schedule era, notched its second win against a top five team in the AP Top 25 this month with a 14-7 upset over No. 4 TCU. Heading into the season, the Cyclones had just one such win as a program, per ESPN.
Conference road games are tough. And TCU, which has five conference road games this season, didn't play great. Still, this win shakes up the Big 12 standings and the playoff race in one result. What does it all mean? We break down the Cyclones' memorable season below.
1. Do you believe in miracles? Take a picture of it and put it in the Smithsonian. The Cyclones, at 4-1 in Big 12 play, are tied atop the conference standings and control their destiny for the return of the Big 12 Championship Game. These are all true statements that deserve time to sink in. A bowl game was the reasonable expectation for this program in Matt Campbell's second year. That goal was reached on Saturday, but now Campbell's teams can legitimately put their sights on something bigger. There are still obstacles ahead. Up next is a road game at West Virginia, which is quickly becoming Ames East on the tough road trips list. Then it's back home against Oklahoma State and road games at Baylor and Kansas State. If you're Campbell, you tell your team (if you haven't already) to dream big.
2. The Cyclones aren't just a good story, they're legitimately good: Consider this question, posed before the game, officially answered. Iowa State has now knocked off previously unbeaten teams in Oklahoma and TCU. That doesn't happen by a fluke, and the win over the Horned Frogs certainly wasn't one. Iowa State hired an offensive coach in Campbell, but the quiet difference this season has been the defensive improvement, particularly against the run. TCU had just 1.6 yards per rush when that was the basis of its offense. That forced quarterback Kenny Hill to win with his arm, and frankly, that's not something he's great at doing. Hill threw two picks, lost a fumble and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt. This was all Iowa State.
3. Everyone has a bad game; this was TCU's bad game: That's not meant to diminish Iowa State's win. The Cyclones won this fair and square. But the other side of this story is that the Horned Frogs killed themselves with penalties (11 for 104 yards). That's basically double of what they average for the season. On numerous occasions, those penalties wiped out a big play or even a touchdown. A would-be pick-six, for instance, was called back because of an offsides penalty. You don't get left out of the end zone on offense by accident, but TCU didn't help its cause, either.
4. The Big 12's playoff hopes probably rest on Oklahoma now: For as great as all of this is for Iowa State, this is a tough blow for the Big 12. The Sooners, provided they beat Texas Tech, are likely the conference's last remaining legitimate playoff contenders barring total nonsense in the national landscape over the next month. The Horned Frogs have a tough conference schedule in that they faced five road games, but the lack of a signature nonconference win hurts. Oklahoma and TCU, by the way, face off in two weeks on Nov. 11.