Camp is open up in Ames. Before we get too deep in sweltering hot practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.
Next up: Iowa State.
Media's predicted finish: Eighth
Biggest story line: Iowa State has snuck into a bowl game in two of the past three seasons, but nearly made it in 2010, too. Coach Paul Rhoads is preaching about his 2012 team, touting it as his best team yet. It's debatable, but he might be right. Can Iowa State start to climb and make the same sort of jump Oklahoma State and Missouri did over the past five years? You've got to climb the ladder one position, one game and one year at a time. ISU's got another brutal schedule, but an experienced team. Can it prove something?
Biggest question mark: Quarterbacks. Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz teamed up for three wins each in last season's six-win campaign, but as the old saying goes, "If you've got two quarterbacks, you don't have any." The fall is all about figuring out who will take the field on Sept. 1 vs. Tulsa, where the Cyclones are actually a home underdog. Rhoads plans to announce his starter after the third scrimmage of camp with a couple weeks before the opener.
Fun fact: Iowa State is the Big 12's only team with a real quarterback competition this fall. Texas hasn't officially announced David Ash as the starter, but he reportedly took nearly every first-team rep through spring and worked with the first team during the summer, similar to what Garrett Gilbert did in the offseason before 2011.
On the mend: RB Shontrelle Johnson. He suffered a major neck injury against Texas and missed the rest of the season. His career was in doubt, but he's been cleared for contact, and he's back. He's shifty and speedy, and gives Iowa State some serious punch in the backfield.
Who needs to step up: DT Jake McDonough. He's the only returning starter on a defensive line that didn't offer much resistance the past two seasons. Iowa State's linebackers are quite obviously outstanding. Both earned preseason All-Big 12 nods and A.J. Klein is the returning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. But if opposing offensive linemen are rolling into the second level of the defense, Klein and Jake Knott's effectiveness will be for naught. Racking up 130 tackles doesn't mean much when two-thirds of them are 4-5 yards downfield.
Don't forget about: WR Jarvis West. He's the most exciting playmaker in Iowa State's offense, and the Cyclones need to find ways to get him the ball. Receiver Josh Lenz is the most reliable receiver, but West gives the team a home-run threat that no one else on the team can provide.