AMES, Iowa — Iowa State’s October of knocking Big 12 contenders from the prime position in the College Football Playoff race came to a raucous and resounding end on Saturday.
The No. 25 Cyclones, ranked for the first time since 2005, upset No. 4 TCU 14-7 to leave this league without an unbeaten as the CFP committee prepares to unveil its first rankings of the season this Tuesday.
The storybook resurgence under second-year coach Matt Campbell continued as ISU (6-2, 4-1) claimed a share of first place in the Big 12 with TCU and Oklahoma State, pending the result Saturday of Oklahoma’s meeting with Texas Tech.
The Cyclones, bowl eligible for the first time since 2012, own the tiebreaker over the Horned Frogs and Sooners — both victims in a month for the ages at Iowa State. It has won four straight games since a Sept. 28 home loss to Texas.
One of six remaining Power 5 teams before Saturday without a loss, TCU (7-1, 4-1) scored for the 314th consecutive game only on KaVontae Turpin’s 94-yard kickoff return to open the second half. Otherwise, Iowa State held the Horned Frogs, averaging 41.6 points through seven games, to 307 yards and 4-of-14 third-down conversions.
Iowa State defenders J.D. Waggoner, JaQuan Bailey and Willie Harvey teamed to sack TCU quarterback Kenny Hill, force and recover his fumble on a second-and-goal play from the ISU 3 with 7 minutes, 11 seconds to play.
Marcel Spears‘ interception of Hill at the Iowa State 44-yard line with 1:16 left clinched the victory.
So now, what happens to the Big 12, shut out of the playoff in two of its first three years and the only Power 5 conference without a semifinal victory?
We’ll see this Tuesday if the committee looks fondly on the Sooners, these Horned Frogs or one-loss Oklahoma State, which visits Iowa State on Nov. 11 after a Bedlam, CFP-elimination game next week against OU in Stillwater.
As for the Cyclones, they’re happy to serve as a disruptive force.
Iowa State simply took the action to TCU on Saturday.
The Cyclones silenced Hill by blanketing his receivers with an underrated secondary, daring the Horned Frogs to run. When Iowa State’s Joel Lanning, the middle linebacker who converted in the offseason from quarterback, wobbled to the sideline with a second-quarter injury, TCU used the opportunity to gash the Cyclones for runs up the middle of 22 yards by Kyle Hicks and 17 by Darius Anderson.
But Iowa State had a defensive answer, getting strong tackles behind the line of scrimmage from Waggoner and Spears to snuff the Horned Frogs’ best opportunity of the second half.
Meanwhile, Iowa State found little trouble generating early offense against a unit that ranked as the Big 12’s best in allowing yards and points per game. David Montgomery consistently ran for tough yards, and Kyle Kempt, the unlikely senior standout in his fourth start, connected with seven receivers for 15 completions before halftime.