Heartbeat of the Heartland: All Eyes on Matt Campbell

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According to Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility. Forgive Iowa State fans if their Spidey senses are tingling because of a similar phrase: With more victories comes the chance of losing our coach.

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit – who, thanks to his platform, has great power – Tweeted this after the Cyclones rolled into and out of Lubbock with a convincing 31-13 victory over Texas Tech:

“Dear AD’s thinking of making a new hire I’ll save you your coaching search firm fee-go DIRECTLY to Ames, IA and get Matty Campbell FAST!!” Herbie then doubled down with another Tweet reply to an ISU fan: Enjoy this team and this coach, in particular, while you can. He’s gone.

Campbell is in his second season at Iowa State. The Cyclones are 5-2, ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2005. Saturday No. 4 TCU will be in Jack Trice Stadium for arguably the biggest game in school history. If Iowa State wins, it will be in first place in the Big 12 standings.

The end of a ranking drought is meaningless to Campbell – “you want to be there at the end of the season” – but he did take umbrage at the idea that he’ll jump ship at the next job offer.

“They don’t have anything to worry about,” Campbell said to Cyclones fans in an interview with The Des Moines Register Monday. “The frustration part of comments like that are that it discredits this university and this football (program). … We’ve got just as much opportunity to do elite things as anybody in college football and I think we’re proving it one day at a time right now.”

Iowa State went 3-9 in Campbell’s first season but proved its worthiness and progress with a shocking road upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman. The Cyclones followed that up with victories over Kansas and Texas Tech.

“That’s why we came here … to build this program and we haven’t even started yet,” Campbell said. “All we’ve done is laid a foundation to this thing.” 

If the Frogs fall in an upset trap Saturday, the clamor about Campbell being a hot commodity will only grow. That’s a problem, but it’s a good problem to have. Campbell’s contract includes a buyout of just north of $9 million. The assumption is that he would only leave for a “Cadillac” program.

What Campbell is saying about “building” and “foundations” have been said by hundreds of coaches and a few dozen of those have abandoned the construction project before completion. For now, all Iowa State fans can do is cheer like maniacs on Saturday and take Campbell at his word that he means what he says.

Historical/perspective note: In 2007, on the morning of the Southeastern Conference championship game, Herbstreit reported that LSU coach Les Miles would leave the Tigers to become coach at his alma mater, Michigan.

That, uh, never happened.

That’s Just Offensive

Since Kansas sealed the deal on the end of Charlie Strong’s career at Texas, the Jayhawks and the Longhorns have had a connection that irks the Bevo out of Burnt Orange fans. Unfortunately, both schools shared a Saturday that only strengthened the bond.

First, let’s start with Kansas. The Jayhawks were shut out for the second consecutive week but failing to crack the scoreboard doesn’t fully explain how inept KU’s offense has been the last two weeks. In the last 120 minutes of “action” the Jayhawks have run 108 offensive plays for a total of 127 yards. That’s 1.2 yards per play.

In its 43-0 loss in Fort Worth to TCU Saturday, Kansas finished with 21 total yards, a Big 12 record for fewest yards allowed. That’s also the fewest yards gained by an FBS team since at least 2000. Of the Jayhawks’ 49 plays, 15 resulted in negative yardage.

The offensive ineptitude slightly obscured the fact that Kansas lost its 44th consecutive road game. The NCAA record is 48 by Idaho State from 2006-2014.

Texas wasted a stellar performance by its defense in a 13-10 overtime loss at home to Oklahoma State. After starting the second half with a solid drive to take a 10-7 lead, the Longhorns’ offense ran 25 plays and gained 36 yards. UT failed to generate momentum, gaining a total of just 85 yards on 27 first-down plays.

The Longhorns’ lone touchdown was set up by a 90-yard completion. Excluding that play, Texas averaged 2.87 yards per play and was 3-of-17 on third downs.

When Pigs Fly?

We’re one week from the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings. This year, first hint at what the committee is thinking will come on Halloween. So there are plenty of scenarios dressed as reality. The speculation has begun with a full month of games to be played.

Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com sees the scenario where the Big 12 could put two teams in the football final four. (We’ll pause here until the hysterical laughing quiets.)

There.

“The winner of Bedlam would have to beat an undefeated TCU in the title game and not have lost again otherwise, leaving two 12-1 teams.  The problem for the Big 12 is that only Oklahoma did anything of note outside the league. A 12-1 TCU is the least playoff-worthy of the potential 12-1 teams we have talked about, except for Wisconsin.”

More insulting injury for Horned Frogs fans who are building a lumberyard-sized chip on their shoulders over their team not getting any respect.

TCU would most certainly earn a CFP bid if its finishes undefeated. If Oklahoma finishes the regular-season 11-1 – winning Bedlam and eliminating Oklahoma State from CFP discussion – the Sooners could then defeat the Frogs in the Big 12 championship game and give the committee two 12-1 Big 12 teams to ponder.

Obviously a two-team Big 12 CFP parlay would require a number of other contenders to fall by the wayside. And, if there are two playoff-worthy Big 12 teams and only one gets selected, the conference’s pride would equal the profanities coming from the team left out.

Quick Slants

  • West Virginia wide receiver David Sills V had three touchdown receptions against Baylor to push his season total to 15 which leads FBS. Sills is averaging 25.8 yards per TD catch and he has more touchdown receptions than 99 FBS teams have touchdown passes.

  • Will Grier is in his first season as West Virginia’s starting quarterback after transferring from Florida. He leads FBS with 26 touchdowns. The quarterbacks have his previous school have combined for five touchdown passes, one of which was a miraculous Hail Mary connection.
  • Just when you think Kansas can’t fall any deeper than rock bottom … about an hour after being smothered by TCU Saturday night, the Jayhawks lost their only Texas recruit and only quarterback from the 2018 recruiting class. Clayton Tune, a three-star prospect from Hebron High in Carrollton, Texas, announced he had backed out of the verbal commitment he made in February.

  • Texas is 3-4 for the fourth consecutive season. Saturday’s 13-10 overtime loss to Oklahoma State continued a disturbing trend. Since 2010, the Longhorns’ record in one-score games in Austin is 4-11. The Longhorns’ three losses to top 10 teams this season have been by a total of 11 points. Dating back to last season, eight of UT’s last nine losses have come by a total of 36 points.

  • Oklahoma State, before Saturday’s narrow victory at Texas, had the nation’s longest active streak of scoring at least 20 points in 35 consecutive games.

  • Following its 38-36 loss to West Virginia, Baylor is 0-7 and has lost 13 consecutive regular-season games dating back to last season. However, the Bears rallied from a 38-13 fourth quarter deficit and had a chance to tie on a two-point conversion. In six of Baylor’s seven losses, it has been within seven points in the fourth quarter.
  • With Iowa State ranked in this week’s Associated Press poll, eight of the Big 12’s 10 teams have been ranked this season. The two that haven’t been ranked, Kansas and Baylor, have combined for one victory.
  • Oklahoma, for the first time since 2012, have played four consecutive games decided by single digits – Baylor (49-41 win), Iowa State (38-31 loss), Texas (29-24 win) and Kansas State (42-35 win). In 2012, the Sooners won their last four regular-season games by single digits.

Said and Done

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy after his team’s 13-10 overtime victory at Texas:

“The defense played their ass off, period, and won the damn game, and that’s what you take from it.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen on his team nearly blowing a 25-point lead going into the fourth quarter at Baylor:

“That’s not good offensively. When we have a (25-point) lead in the fourth quarter, it needs to remain a (25-point) lead. This is something that has been concerning to me that will get addressed. We have a lead. We need to preserve the lead, not hurry up and three-and-out twice in the fourth quarter.”

Oklahoma first-year coach Lincoln Riley admitted that with his team trailing 21-10 at Kansas State that he probably as “hot as I run” during his halftime speech. Here’s what senior captain Steven Parker said:

“His message was just spot on. He was burning up, but he already knows what we’re capable of, he knows what kind of team we are. A lot of people don’t see that from coach Riley. He’s a guy, he kind of keeps his emotions a little bit down, but just not getting mad or anything like that. He was hot and he had every right to be.”