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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Likes and Dislikes

Five and Five: Iowa State

What are five things I like about Iowa State in 2010? What about five things I don’t? This list has all the answers.

Likes

1. Seniors in the backfield. Yes, Austen Arnaud has been inconsistent. Nevertheless, there’s no discounting his experience. After rushing for 1,195 yards last fall, senior Alexander Robinson has set a goal of 1,500 yards in his final season.

2. The secondary. Iowa State has a pair of potential all-conference picks at cornerback and strong safety.

3. A deep receiver corps. No one star, but at least six guys who can come in and make plays.

4. Coach Paul Rhoads. I’m almost tempted to list this twice. I can’t say enough about a coach who can talk the talk — guaranteeing a bowl victory — and then have his team walk the walk. The anti-Gene Chizik, at least in Ames.

5. The rapid growth of a program. The Cyclones made a five-win improvement last fall, tying Washington for the largest jump in the country. Not to say the Cyclones will make another improvement in 2010, or even match last season’s win total; just that it’s comforting to know that this program can win under Rhoads.

Dislikes

1. The big issue: a beefed-up schedule. The Cyclones get Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech from the Big 12 South division.

2. Will the ball bounce Iowa State’s way in 2010? It certainly did in 2009.

3. Questionable production from the defensive front four. This group, replacing tackle Christopher Lyle at tackle, must get a big senior season from end Rashawn Parker.

4. Three lost starters at linebacker. The losses are lessened somewhat by the fact that I.S.U. will spend a wide percentage of snaps on defense with at least one additional defensive back on the field.

5. Losing Reggie Stephens was expected; losing Scott Haughton was not. Things are not all doom and gloom on the offensive line, but Rhoads would surely feel more secure if Haughton had retained his eligibility for the 2010 season.

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