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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2015 PRESEASON TOP 25

#74 Iowa State Cyclones

NATIONAL FORECAST

#74

Big 12 PREDICTION

#9

HEAD COACH: Paul Rhoads, 29-46 (6 Years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mark Mangino | DEF. COORDINATOR: Wally Burnham

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has cultivated a reputation of being able to do more with less. After a 5-19 record the last two seasons, Rhoads and his reputation are being put to the test. The Cyclones went winless in the Big 12 last season — which, of course, means they lost to Kansas — and rebounding by a significant margin would seem to be a tall task.

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Previewing Iowa State’s Offense in 2015 
 

Iowa State finished last season ranked 89th in the nation in total offense. But with coordinator Mark Mangino’s system now fully in place and an experienced starting quarterback in Sam Richardson running the show, there is reason to believe the Cyclones can be greatly improved. 

One of the main reasons for the optimism is a wide receiving corps that should be among the best in the Big 12. Quenton Bundrage, who tied a school record with nine touchdown receptions in 2013, tore his ACL in the 2014 opener and is set to return at full strength. He will be joined by two large and talented partners in D’Vario Montgomery (6'6", 236) and Allen Lazard (6'5", 218), both of whom showed great promise during the 2014 campaign. 

It’s the offensive line and running backs who hold the questions surrounding this offense. Gone are both of Iowa State’s top tailbacks from last season, Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy. Sophomore Tyler Brown and redshirt freshman Mike Warren are expected to share carries this fall. 

Iowa State’s offensive line has been decimated by injuries in each of the last two seasons. However, because of that, there are a bunch of players at the position who have received significant playing time. Jake Campos, forced into the lineup early last season, will anchor the line at left tackle. 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 Big 12 College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 conference teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing Iowa State’s Defense in 2015 
 

There is only one way for this group to go following last season’s final ranking of 125th in total defense. The good news for coordinator Wally Burnham is that his defensive line should be much improved, thanks in part to the arrival of junior college transfer Demond Tucker, who impressed at nose guard in the spring. Devlyn Cousin is a reliable defensive tackle, while Dale Pierson and Trent Taylor gained valuable experience in 2014 and should be viable defensive ends this fall. 

Linebacker is another story. Jevohn Miller was leading the team in tackles before he got hurt last year and is gone to graduation. Luke Knott can’t seem to stay healthy. A bulk of pressure is going to be put on the back of Jordan Harris, a junior college recruit from 2014 who redshirted last year because he couldn’t grasp the defense. Harris had a great spring and is the favorite to start in the middle. 

Iowa State is in good shape at cornerback with both starters from last year, Nigel Tribune and Sam E. Richardson, returning. The Cyclones’ second-leading tackler, strong safety T.J. Mutcherson, was dismissed from the team in the offseason and is expected to be replaced by senior Qujuan Floyd. The Big 12’s Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, Kamari Cotton-Moya, will be the man at free safety. 
Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
 

Previewing Iowa State’s Specialists in 2015 
 

There is no controversy when it comes to Iowa State’s kicking game. Cole Netten went 11-for-14 on field goals last year and is back for his junior season. Punter Colin Downing had an impressive freshman campaign, averaging 39.4 yards per kick. The return game will be interesting, but specialist Jomal Wiltz was brought in as a junior college recruit specifically for these duties. 

Final Analysis
 

There is significant pressure on Paul Rhoads, whose program has won a total of five games in the past two years, to show significant improvement this season. First and foremost, for that to happen, the Cyclones have to stay healthy. After that, the offense needs to be more explosive and efficient. The defense should be improved, but not enough to consistently slow down quality Big 12 offenses. Getting to six wins — and reaching bowl-eligibility — will be a challenge for the 2014 Cyclones.

The Debate

Where Does Sam Richardson Rank Among Big 12 QBs?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2015 PRESEASON TOP 25

#48 Texas Tech Red Raiders

NATIONAL FORECAST

#48

Big 12 PREDICTION

#8

HEAD COACH: Kliff Kingsbury, 12-13 (2 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Eric Morris | DEF. COORDINATOR: David Gibbs

Kliff Kingsbury has had an interesting two-year start to his head-coaching career at Texas Tech. Year One featured big offensive numbers and an impressive postseason victory over Arizona State. Year Two featured another undisciplined team, seven Big 12 losses and no postseason. Kingsbury has plenty of talent, both as a coach and on his depth chart, but has to correct his team’s sloppy play if Tech expects to get back to a bowl game in 2015.

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Previewing Texas Tech’s Offense for 2015


Texas Tech’s quarterbacks production was up and down throughout the 2014 season. Sophomore Davis Webb started the team’s first eight games before being shut down for the season due to a shoulder injury. True freshman Patrick Mahomes replaced Webb in the lineup and showed enough promise to emerge as a strong candidate to earn the job in the fall.

The offense as a unit was inconsistent and prone to turnovers. But with eight starters back, the Red Raiders are hoping to build on the last few games of the year when they finally seemed to get things on track.

The two strengths are the starting offensive line, which will return four veterans, including all-conference left tackle Le’Raven Clark, and running back, led by DeAndre Washington. The Red Raiders are looking for consistency at receiver as a young group turned in an uneven performance in 2014. Jakeem Grant is the leader of the pack, and the shifty senior should be a versatile weapon for the offense. Devin Lauderdale and Ian Sadler both emerged late in the year, but they’ll need to build upon that success if Texas Tech is to take a step forward this fall. The coaches are hoping that junior Reginald Davis will step up — he has loads of talent but has yet to realize his potential.

Ultimately, the Red Raiders’ offense will go as the quarterback goes. If the winner between Webb and Mahomes can limit turnovers and produce at an above-average level, Texas Tech should return to the postseason in 2015. 

Previewing Texas Tech's Defense for 2015

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 Big 12 College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

The word of the offseason around the Texas Tech football office is turnovers. The offense is focused on reducing the amount committed, and the defense, led by new coordinator David Gibbs, is focused on forcing them.

Gibbs’ defense at Houston did a fantastic job of forcing turnovers over the last two seasons, and the hope in Lubbock is that he can duplicate some of that magic on the South Plains.

In the secondary, Gibbs will have some experience and potential with which to work, including sophomore corner Nigel Bethel and safety Keenon Ward. At linebacker, senior Micah Awe is the only experienced, veteran piece. But there are interesting options, including linebacker Dakota Allen and former five-star prospect and Ohio State transfer Mike Mitchell.

The defensive line returns all but one player, including Big 12 sack leader Pete Robertson (12 sacks in 2014) at one end and senior Branden Jackson on the other. Things must improve on the interior, however, as former junior college transfers Rika Levi and Keland McElrath are being relied upon to take big steps forward, which they appeared to do in the spring. It’s a unit that must improve if Tech is to make a bowl, and things appear to be moving in the right direction. 

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128


Previewing Texas Tech’s Specialists for 2015

 

Clayton Hatfield, a former U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection, will compete with Michael Barden and Taylor Symmank for the starting placekicking job. Hatfield has a big leg and likely has the edge. Symmank is expected to be the Red Raiders’ starting punter. The coverage units should take another step forward with an influx of young talent from among the incoming freshmen. 


Final Analysis


In Year 3 of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure, two things are very clear: The offense must find some consistency and the defense simply has to be better. The addition of Gibbs should help stabilize the ailing defense, but all bets are off until they hit the field this fall. The big key, however, is at quarterback. The winner of the Mahomes vs. Webb battle must play at a high level for Texas Tech to return to form.

The Debate

Where Does DeAndre Washington Rank Among Big 12 RBs?

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