It's been a house of horrors for Iowa State for the best part of a decade.
The Cyclones have not won at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in the 2010s — part of a long-time streak of futility against what is now their end-of-season rivals. After ending a 10-year losing streak in 2018 with a 42-38 comeback win in what was Snyder's final game at the helm, the Cyclones can't go in with any expectations of having the Wildcats figured out.
"They run the ball well," defensive tackle Jamahl Johnson said. "They got all seniors on the offensive line, big dudes, good guys, people movers."
But this isn't going to be easy for the Cyclones. In fact, I would not be surprised if it was another down-to-the-wire game that left everyone — especially Iowa State fans — on the edge of their seats, wondering if the same Manhattan, Kansas, magic will strike again.
In many ways, these two programs mirror each other. Not just for their relative overachievement compared to their should-be standing in college football — realistically, programs like Iowa State and Kansas State have no business becoming consistent winners in a power conference — but for their strategies to exceed expectations and find talent.
Campbell has admitted that he admires Kansas State, and last season when Snyder retired he was adamant in his praise of the program. His praise didn't stop Tuesday when asked about new head coach Chris Klieman and his progress in one season at the helm.
"Probably one of the great hires in college football that would allow a transition as smoothly to take over as what they've done at Kansas State," Campbell said. "So I think it was just a perfect match."
Klieman brought in championships (at the FCS level, but they're still championships) and an identity. It may look similar to what it was under Snyder, but it's more refined, and the proof of concept was the same as it was for Campbell's team — a win over top-10 ranked Oklahoma.
The rivalry between these two agricultural schools makes perfect sense — they're two peas in a pod.
Hell, they've even got the same records at 7-4 (and have been in their fair share in close games).
The respect between the two programs is apparent — I haven't been able to pick up on a lot in the way of disdain from Iowa State's players or from Campbell. I know that fans on both sides get into it (Twitter during the game is an interesting place), but I think that's a positive — it's not a real rivalry if there's not a little bit of dislike between fans.
Iowa State knows more than anybody how one-sided the rivalry has been since 2008, where the Wildcats have won 10 of 11 — and five straight games in Manhattan. This is one of the final frontiers for Campbell to conquer with the Cyclones. He's only had one opportunity so far and it ended in, uh, controversial circumstances — although the Cyclones did still give up an 80-yard drive in under two minutes to lose 20-19. Maybe the memory of that raw deal provides another spark for the Cyclones to get the job done Saturday night.
If they do pull out a win, they'll exorcise one of the final demons left in a program on the rise.