Nothing is a sure thing in Big 12


The Associated Press

Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz runs from Baylor cornerback Ahmad Dixon during the first half of the game Oct. 27 in Ames, Iowa.

AMES, Iowa — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Big 12 makes no sense.

The preseason favorite is always Oklahoma, which always finds a way to slip up; West Virginia looked like an unstoppable force until its pedestrian loss to Texas Tech; and anybody can essentially beat anybody because everyone is already beating up on each other as it is.

My jaw is still on the floor of the press box at Jack Trice Stadium from when Iowa State upset then-No. 2 Oklahoma State last season. Watching the crowd storm the field for the second time that season with the entire country watching on a primetime Friday night game on ESPN, Iowa State crystallized the otherwise-latent parity of the Big 12 Conference.

Going into that game, I didn’t think Iowa State — which had been struggling to become bowl-eligible with three ranked teams remaining on its schedule — even remotely had a chance to beat the No. 2 team in the nation. On paper, Oklahoma State was the superior team and had proven itself as such against the rest of the Big 12 leading up to that game.

But the Cowboys didn’t execute as well as they should have, allowing the Cyclones to come back from a two-touchdown deficit to send the game into overtime. In the second overtime, the Cyclone defense picked off a pass from Brandon Weeden to set up the game-winning touchdown for a result that would essentially play into to the installment of a four-team playoff of the BCS since Oklahoma State was snubbed from a shot at playing for a national title.

Even though Iowa State is a 10.5-point underdog for its game against No. 19 Texas this weekend, don’t bat an eye at the notion of an upset considering the Cyclones won in Austin two seasons ago.

Yes, the teams are different now and Iowa State is without its leading tackler in linebacker Jake Knott for the rest of the season. But Iowa State is 3-2 in the state of Texas under coach Paul Rhoads and has already had a victory in the state this season against TCU in Fort Worth Oct. 6.

In those five games in the state of Texas, Iowa State has outscored its opponents by a narrow margin of 142-135 with all three wins coming against ranked teams (No. 22 Texas in 2010, No. 19 Texas Tech in 2011 and No. 15 TCU this year).

There are 19 players on the ISU roster that hail from the state of Texas and many of them always have an extra spark in their game whenever they play a conference opponent in the state of Texas.

“I feel like it’s personal when I play them,” said running back James White before the win against TCU. “Any team that’s from Texas, I want to do my best against them — prove them wrong, show them what they missed out on.”

But yet, the main issue Iowa State has been having is its play at quarterback.

Quarterback Steele Jantz earned the starting job after a disparaging loss to Oklahoma State three weeks ago had stripped then-starter Jared Barnett of his job.

Jantz suffered his first loss as a starter last season in a 37-14 contest against Texas. In that game, the Cyclones laid an egg as the Longhorns took a 34-0 lead going into halftime.

This season, Jantz hasn’t looked stellar even though his stat line isn’t as bad on the surface — 12 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 63.6 percent pass completion percentage.

But Jantz’s main issue is that he lacks the ability to lead the offense on a consistent basis. From what I’ve seen in my two years of covering the team, the offense sputters more than half the time with Jantz behind center and his chemistry with the wide receivers is not the greatest.

If Jantz has a bad game, the offense will not be able to get things going. This means the defense will wear down and give up more yardage and points than it should, making it almost a sure loss for Iowa State.

I guarantee you Mack Brown and his staff already know this having successfully executed this game plan a year ago.

But then again, as has been proven a lot this season, things are not always what they seem, especially in the Big 12.

Printed on Friday, November 9, 2012 as: Cyclones performing well in Lone Star State, look to Jantz for spark