Football vs UNI 6

Iowa State kicker Connor Assalley attempts a field goal during Iowa State’s 29-26 victory over Northern Iowa on Aug. 31, 2019, at Jack Trice Stadium.

Shall we open up the time capsule for a quick look to see how Iowa State has fared against teams outside of the Big 12 and the traditional Cy-Hawk game?

Let it rise from the dirt.

The last decade (2010-19), the Cyclones went 15-4 against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and non-Power Five opponents. Seems like a pretty good record on the surface.

Look deeper and there's a trend.

Iowa State needed triple overtime to beat Northern Iowa last season. It fended off Drake, a program that has no scholarship players, by a field goal. Of those 15 wins, it only won by 20 or more points six times.

Even when you want to compare the first half of the decade to the second half, that's still a tad bit troubling that the Cyclones always seem to let teams hang around a bit longer than they should.

Granted, all nine of those seasons had expectations that aren't in the same galaxy as the ones that have been placed upon the No. 23 team in the land.

A win against a really good designated Group of Five team is critical for a successful season not only from the viewpoint of the national experts, but also internal confidence and momentum.

Which is why Louisiana, Iowa State's opponent for its season-opening contest scheduled for an 11 a.m. kickoff at Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 12, is going to be the toughest nonconference foe to walk into Ames in a long time.

In 2019, it lost to Southeastern Conference power Mississippi State by just 10 points. Its season ended with an 11-3 record and a win over Miami (Ohio) in the Lending Tree Bowl.

The Ragin' Cajuns out of the Sun Belt Conference bring back key pieces from one of the most explosive offenses a season ago, averaging 38 points per game.

Tailbacks Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas return after combining for just under 2,000 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns for a potent 1-2 attack. Quarterback Levi Lewis is back after throwing for 3,050 yards with 26 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

Receiving wise, it's a group that brings back depth, but not standout production.


Head Coach Matt Campbell yells during the game against Drake University on Dec. 1 at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones won 27-24.

For what some believe is going to be the best defense Iowa State will put out on the field, this is a really good first test.

"Before you talk about the running backs, you have to talk about the offensive line. It looks like a really talented group coming back," Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell said. "In general, this is one of the better offensive teams in the country. You're talking about an outstanding team coming in here. 

"Great challenge for us, certainly great challenge for our defense."

And Louisiana wasn't a slouch on defense either, allowing 20 points per contest, tied with Appalachian State for best in the Sun Belt.

Joe Dillon, with eight sacks that led Louisiana's front seven, will be the primary pass rusher looking to disrupt a pretty much brand new Iowa State O-line.

If Brock Purdy and company want to put a stamp on what many believe will be a pretty good offense, this defense might provide a challenge.

This is something that will be somewhat brand new for the Cyclones, facing a team that could win the Sun Belt and play in a somewhat mid-to-high tier bowl game.

The previous games on Iowa State's schedule — South Dakota, Iowa, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and for a brief moment Ball State — would not set it up for a successful Big 12 season.

Of course, the Hawkeyes always are a pest for the Cyclones, but had that game happened, I think the latter wins by a close margin. We'll never know, but next season we will. That'll be fun.

Those other three, with a combined record of 14-22 last season, aren't on the same level as the Ragin' Cajuns.

For a weird season and so much uncertainty regarding if the Big 12 will allow nonconference opponents, Iowa State found the perfect team to open the 2020 campaign.

Expect this to be a dogfight, not a walk in the park.

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