Don't count Iowa State out this weekend.
Yes, Baylor is a 16.5-point favorite going into the weekend. Yes, Baylor is 4-0 and probably the best bet the Big 12 has at the College Football Playoff this season. And yes, I don't even have the Cyclones pulling off a victory in my pick.
But Iowa State, which has been mired in disappointing season after disappointing season, has been in many similar situations before.
How could any Iowa State fan forget beating Oklahoma State in 2011 or Nebraska in 1992? Those coaches, Paul Rhoads and Jim Walden, respectively, are remembered for those monumental wins, even though both didn't pan out in the end. This weekend could be a similarly monumental weekend under new coach Matt Campbell.
Although it is unlikely, there is a chance.
No. 13 Baylor is entering a lull in its schedule. This week it takes on Iowa State at 11 a.m. Saturday in Ames. Next weekend, the Bears go back to Waco, Texas, to take on the Big 12 bottom-feeders Kansas Jayhawks.
Could the Cyclones and Jayhawks be overlooked? We'll have to see. But the Bears, who are still entangled in a sexual assault debacle, could be peering a few weeks down the line.
Iowa State is in a good position going into the week and in a prime position to upset. Coming off the 44-10 victory against San Jose State on Saturday, when the Cyclones finally saw some semblance of what coach Matt Campbell can do, Iowa State finally has some confidence under its belt.
While it was a win against San Jose State, a team that is 1-3 and was without its starting quarterback, there's no doubt that it helps going forward.
"We’re excited, man,” quarterback Jacob Park said after the game. “It’s the start of a new beginning now. We’re about to keep this thing rolling.”
It also helps that Iowa State is moving into arguably the hardest part of this season's schedule. The next three matchups bring Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas. There's not doubt the Cyclones aren't in a position to be overlooking anybody, but it helps when you play three of the toughest teams in the conference back-to-back-to-back.
The key for Iowa State will be to slow down Baylor's fast-paced offenses and defenses. The Bears run a unique system in which they don't substitute on offense. It keeps the defense on its toes. And on defense, the Bears don't slow down. They'll keep pounding and pounding and that'll be tough on a thin offensive line.
But the line has been trending up in the past few weeks.
"I think even last week was better than the week before,” Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning said this week. “So I think we’re trending in the right direction there."
It'll take quarterbacks Jacob Park and Joel Lanning's best effort in the two-quarterback system. In addition, a stellar performance by Iowa State's defense will be needed, as well as quite a bit of luck.
If the Cyclones can pull this one off, it could be a defining moment for Campbell and his staff. A moment that Campbell could show off for future recruits and donors.
"I do think you look at Baylor and they have a bunch of good football players. That hasn't changed," Campbell said. "They know how to win. That hasn't changed. They expect to win. That hasn't changed."