AMES — After three straight wins, the Iowa State Cyclones are back in the AP Top 25.
The Cyclones started the year ranked 21st, then dipped to 25 after a nail-biting double overtime win over FCS opponent Northern Iowa. Then came the CyHawk game, which ISU lost on a muffed punt late in the fourth quarter. The loss brought an abrupt exit from the rankings.
Iowa State has been a fringe team ever since, receiving more and more votes each week. A narrow loss to an unbeaten now-top-15 Baylor team on the road was a setback, but the Cyclones won their next three games, all by two or more possessions and all against Big 12 opponents. Oh, and the last two of those games were on the road.
The Cyclone offense put up 121 points in that stretch. The continued success of Brock Purdy at quarterback and the emergence of true freshman running back Breece Hall have been pivotal in that.
In their last three games, Purdy has thrown for a combined 854 yards and six touchdowns. After getting just one carry for two yards in the TCU game three weeks ago, Hall has gone off for 315 yards and five TDs on the ground in the last two contests.
The 23rd-ranked Cyclones will look to ride this momentum into another Big 12 contest this coming Saturday when they welcome struggling Oklahoma State into Jack Trice. ESPN’s Matchup Predictor, which utilizes the Football Power Index, heavily favors the Cyclones in that one at a 77 percent chance.
Saturday’s game is scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m. If you can’t make it out for it, you can catch it on FS1.
Iowa, meanwhile, is back where they began the year in the poll after a bounce-back homecoming win against Purdue.
The Hawkeyes have been in the ranked every week of the season, starting off the year at 20. They got up to 14th after winning their first four games, but a stretch of two losses to Michigan and Penn State sent the struggling Hawks plummeting to 23.
They bounced back on Saturday with a 26-20 win over Purdue, their first Big Ten win since week two when they smacked Rutgers 30-0. A loss probably would have bumped Iowa out of the Top 25 entirely, but instead they’re back up to number 20.
The Hawks struggled hard against Michigan and Penn State in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s win. The defense did its job by holding two ranked opponents to a combined 27 points, but the offense only put up 15 points and didn’t score a single touchdown in that stretch until 2:31 left in the Penn State game.
Iowa needed a good offensive showing on Saturday, and they got it. They scored 26 points on the back of two rushing touchdowns from Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson.
Kicker Keith Duncan has been a bright spot all season for the Hawkeyes, leading the FBS with 17 made field goals. Seven of those 17 have come in the last three weeks.
The Hawkeyes are back on the road this week, heading to Evanston, Ill. to take on a Northwestern squad that’s winless in Big Ten play. Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m. on ESPN2.