A terrible 2007 season ended on a bit of a positive note. They won two consecutive conference games, against Kansas State and Colorado, before getting blown out by BCS-bound Kansas. It was forgivable to lose to Kansas that year, but maybe losing by 38 was a bit much. However, compared to the how the rest of the year went, the season ending winning 2 of 3 was pretty good. Hope was in the air.
I am certain that, like all other college football teams, Iowa State had an outstanding offseason. All the guys hit the weight room, the film room, the study room, and the practice field, all on their own time. I have never once heard of a college football team that did not have an outstanding offseason, and I'm not going to presume otherwise of the 2008 version of the Iowa State Cyclones.
Which brings us to:
August 28, 2008 - Ames, Iowa
Iowa State 44 - South Dakota State 17
I know what you're thinking. South Dakota State is a Division 1-AA team, or as it is currently known, an FCS team. Yes, but don't forget that Iowa State under Gene Chizik was actually 0-1 versus FCS teams by virtue of their loss to Northern Iowa the previous year. So this was, in a roundabout way, a revenge game. Against an entire division.
Chizik's boys dominated from the start. New starting quarterback Austin Arnaut opened the scoring on a one yard quarterback sneak early in the first quarter, and the Cyclones never looked back. The Cyclones scored early and often and eventually built a 37-3 lead, riding the efficient passing game of Arnaut and backup quarterback Phillip Bates (who was, you may recall, one of the heros of the 2007 Iowa upset). Iowa State quarterbacks completed 13 of 19 passes for 159 yards and zero interceptions. The running game was also efficient, generating 5.5 yards per carry.
What's more, the Chizik defense, for which he was famous at Auburn and at Texas, generated 6 turnovers, and converted one of their interceptions into a touchdown return.
The outcome was never in doubt, and South Dakota State put up a couple of late touchdowns to make it not quite such a blowout. The Jackrabbits (that's right, it's the South Dakota State Jackrabbits!) would go on to have a nice season, finishing 7-5 overall, including 6-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference, good enough for 3rd in the 9-team conference. They did not make the playoffs, but it was not a bad year for them.
Strangely enough, the Jackrabbits are a model of consistency. They have finished with 6 or 7 wins in every year since 2002. They might as well not even play the games.