AMES, Iowa -- A new college football season brings plenty of excitement and uncertainty for every team but that's particularly true for the Cyclones, who will begin a new era when they open the year against in-state opponent Northern Iowa on Saturday night in a sold-out Jack Trice Stadium.
Former Toledo head coach Matt Campbell is now the leader of the Cyclones. The offseason hire of the energetic coach has brought a significant amount of passion and intensity back into a team that was in desperate need of it after enduring six-straight losing seasons.
Since Campbell was introduced as head coach on Nov. 30 of last year, Iowa State has worked tirelessly to start turning the program around in anticipation for their 2016 season-opener.
“We’re really excited to get to this point of the season,” Campbell said. “It’s been a long, good fall camp. I’m proud of some of the headway that we’ve been able to make. I still think there are a lot of question marks about this football team and I think a lot of that – some of that – will start to get answered this coming Saturday."
Under a new regime, the Cyclones are set to host the same opponent they faced in their opener last season when Iowa State won handily, 31-7.
In last year's matchup, and to start the 2015 year, Sam Richardson was the starting quarterback. Richardson would eventually relinquish the position to Joel Lanning after a 2-5 start, with Lanning leading the squad to a shutout victory against Texas on Halloween in his first start.
Going into this campaign, it's solely Lanning's team, and he's once again flanked by 2015 freshman All-American running back Mike Warren and talented wide receiver Allen Lazard.
The junior signal-caller gets the opportunity to lead the Cyclones on the field from the start and will look to improve on his overall consistency, particularly his completion percentage, starting this week against the Panthers. UNI is coming off a solid 9-5 record overall in 2015 and enters this season ranked No. 5 in the FCS standings.
“They see me as a leader with what I’ve been doing," Lanning said. "I’m not going to try to change anything and try to lead too much or anything like that.
“I do remember I got my first snap against (UNI) at the very end of the game (last year), that was fun,” Lanning added. “But they’re a good team and tough. They’ll battle the whole time.”
The program is hoping a new coach, philosophy, and overall game plan will be the difference this year as another season-long journey begins. The Cyclones, led by the aforementioned Lanning and Lazard, defensive end Mitchell Meyers and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya, say they are looking forward to showing they've improved from last year's 3-9 record.
"Every season there is always something to prove,” Iowa State linebacker Kane Seeley said. “We have a lot of pride here at Iowa State and we’re due for a great season and want to have a great season. UNI is a great team and they are a great every year if you look at their records in the past and what they’ve done.”
Prediction: Iowa State 31, Northern Iowa 13
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
Time: 7 p.m. (CT)
All-Time Series Record: Iowa State is 21-5-3 against UNI