ISU prepares for rare championship chase

Published 2:44 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2005

By By Steve Batterson
Iowa State football coach Dan McCarney isn't spending much time enjoying the view from the top of the Big 12 North standings.
He's too busy getting ready for Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Kansas State, a team McCarney describes as "the best 4-6 team in America'' and "a team that has handled Iowa State about every way imaginable over the years."
The Cyclones haven't beaten the Wildcats since 1993, and Kansas State has manhandled ISU by a combined 201-20 score over the past four years.
But the 2004 season hasn't played out as usual for either program.
With two games to play, Iowa State is the only team among the four still alive in the North Division championship race that controls its own fate.
Wins in the next two weeks over Kansas State and Missouri would send ISU (5-4, 3-3 Big 12 North) to Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium and the Big 12 Championship Game against South Division winner Oklahoma on Dec. 4.
One win would make the Cyclones bowl eligible for the fourth time in five years.
As ISU competes for its first conference championship since 1912, the Wildcats find themselves playing for pride.
Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt's 64-yard touchdown pass with 5 seconds remaining Saturday allowed the Buffaloes to stun Kansas State 38-31. For the first time in 12 years, coach Bill Snyder's team will not be going to a bowl game.
McCarney views the entire season as the same type of test for his program, which was winless in eight conference games a year ago.
McCarney credits his players with giving Iowa State the opportunity to turn things around.
During the preseason, McCarney mentioned to his team frequently where others believed the Cyclones would finish this season.
It was easy getting his team to buy into the idea of proving the critics wrong.
McCarney no longer waves those glossy preseason magazines around.