First they were underdogs. Then they were just a trap game. Now the Iowa State Cyclones are Big 12 contenders.
Get used to hearing it.
With a 14-7 victory over No. 4 TCU in Ames on Saturday, the No. 25 Cyclones are now the hottest team in the conference and the one no one wants to face. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State and West Virginia, there’s no avoiding Iowa State. And, if what we saw against TCU is a prelude to madness, that’s going to complicate the race for the Big 12 — to say nothing of the playoff race.
Iowa State took a 14-0 lead in the first half and forced the Horned Frogs into disastrous mistakes during the second. Specifically, TCU turned the ball over twice in the red zone with the type of amateur mistakes that not even top teams can recover from. And they both fall on the shoulders of quarterback Kenny Hill.
Hill’s first mistake came on third-and-6 at the 7-yard line when he tried to force a pass to the end zone and instead was picked off by Brian Peavy — who ran it back for 70 yards. Two possessions later, Hill fumbled on first-and-goal to give the ball back to Iowa State.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise to see TCU’s loss sealed on an interception with less than two minutes to play. And even less of a surprise to see fans storm the field at Jack Trice Stadium.
ISU quarterback Kyle Kempt finished the day 21-of-35 passing for 203 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Hill could hardly keep up going 12-of-25 for 135 yards and two picks.
The Cyclones have now completed victories over two top-five teams this season after defeating Oklahoma earlier in October. The program had only done that once in its history before 2017.
This is where things start to get complicated. Oklahoma State, ISU and TCU are now all tied atop the Big 12 at 4-1 — pending a victory on Saturday night, No. 10 Oklahoma could join those three.
TCU’s best win coming into Saturday was a 44-31 victory over Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State can get a signature victory over OU next week in Bedlam before going to Iowa State, but Iowa State has already knocked off Oklahoma in Norman.
Not complicated enough? It gets better.
TCU still gets to play Oklahoma. So who’s the One True Champion?
This is both the beauty and the chaos of the Big 12’s round-robin schedule. The top four teams in the conference either have to play each other or already count as their best win or loss. In a perfect world for the conference, it all comes down to the reinstalled Big 12 championship. But it’s not going to make things any easier for fans still hoping to reach the College Football Playoff.
And that all comes back to Iowa State — the fearsome team no one saw coming. A month ago the Cyclones were 2-2 with losses to Texas and Iowa. Since then they’ve gone 4-0 with wins over Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas and Texas Tech. They still get to play Baylor and Kansas State, too.
Iowa State has a legitimate chance to win out. If you were worried about your Big 12 school winning the conference before this week, you’re downright terrified now.
More college football coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Wild play: OSU interception turns into Penn State TD
• Giant-killer Iowa State upsets No. 4 TCU
• Tulsa WR has TD taken away for high-stepping
• Quarterback change coming for Michigan?
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