Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Remaining schedule: at Nebraska, at Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Colorado, at Missouri.
Nagging injuries to quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson could determine how the rest of the season plays out for the Cyclones. The conference’s best rushing attack should enable them to stay in games by running the clock and being patient. That attitude has helped the Cyclones earn four victories already as one of the Big 12's most underrated teams. They can’t get into many shootouts with other Big 12 teams with their current offensive talent and expect to win. But if coach Paul Rhoads’ team plays to those standards, they might have a couple of more surprises left.
Best-case scenario: Arnaud and Robinson give the Cyclones the ability to stay close in most games down the stretch. They jump on struggling Texas A&M -- again -- for their second straight victory at Kyle Field. And then with the excitement of playing for a bowl game mounting throughout Iowa, the Cyclones topple Colorado to earn their first bowl berth since 2005.
Worst-case scenario: Both Arnaud and Robinson struggle with injuries and their departure builds on Iowa State’s already small margin of error. With backups playing, the Cyclones bottom out with five straight losses to finish a 4-8 season that shows how far Rhoads still has to go to make his program competitive in the North Division.
My prediction: The Cyclones will be competitive in every game they play in, but have the offensive talent to win only one of their remaining games as they beat Colorado in their home finale. Their 5-7 finish with two conference wins represents an improvement for Rhoads to sell to recruits. It might not match neighboring Iowa's run to a BCS berth. But it's a start.