AMES (MCT) — The math isn’t lost on the Iowa State football team.
The Cyclones have five wins. They have two games left. They need one more win to become bowl-eligible.
The pressure could be suffocating ISU, but it’s not.
“I don’t know if the pressure has built, but the focus has kind of narrowed,” running back Jeff Woody said.
Woody said maybe there was a little relaxation when the Cyclones got to five wins with four games left, but the focus to win as many games as possible has never left.
“We aren’t set up to settle for six wins ... or being a .500 football team,” Woody added. “Perhaps innately you are going to relax because you have more chances to get those wins, but we’re focusing on we have two opportunities left and that is it and that is for the rest of the season.
“Focusing on that and really, really sharpening that edge that there is no room to go in expecting to show up and win and having those things given to you. We have to go after them.”
National pundits still believe Iowa State (5-5 overall, 2-5 Big 12) are going to become bowl-eligible and believe it will come this Saturday when the Cyclones travel to Lawrence, Kan., to face the 1-9 Kansas Jayhawks, who have lost their last 19 Big 12 games.
Stewart Mandel of CNNSI.com and the ESPN duo of Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards have Iowa State playing Syracuse in the Dec. 29 Pinstripe Bowl in New York City, which would mark a return trip to Yankee Stadium for the Cyclones, who lost to Rutgers in the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl.
ISU is a 6 1/2 point favorite over Kansas, but understands the Jayhawks have been on the verge of snapping their long Big 12 losing streak several times this season.
Last week, KU took a Texas Tech team that beat ISU, 24-13, in Ames on Sept. 29, into overtime before losing, 41-34, in Lubbock, Texas. Additionally, the Jayhawks played tight games with Texas and Oklahoma State in 21-17 and 20-14 losses, respectively.
“I know they are probably going to be saying in their locker room, ‘Let’s ruin Iowa State’s season, let’s make sure they don’t go to a bowl game,’” defensive tackle Ben Durbin said. “We are looking at it as we have to win this, got to go to a bowl game.
“This is a big opportunity in front of us and we have to take advantage of it.”
ISU head coach Paul Rhoads refused to call Saturday’s trip to Kansas a must-win situation for the Cyclones because that is not his team’s mentality.
“It is the 11th must-win we have gone into this year,” Rhoads said. “I look at every game as a must win. We have prepared and we’ve worked and we have grinded it out.
“I don’t go into it and say, ‘Well, we could lose this game. It would be alright if we lose this one.’ I want to win them all.”
INJURY UPDATES — Rhoads had little good information to pass on about senior wide receiver Josh Lenz, who has played sparingly since suffering an upper leg injury against Oklahoma State.
Lenz caught one pass against Oklahoma two weeks ago and did not play against Texas.
The news on cornerback Jansen Watson is better. Watson suffered an MCL injury in the first quarter of the Cyclones’ game with Oklahoma and did not play against Texas.
Rhoads said Watson is day-to-day and said the first-year starter would be back in time for ISU’s regular-season finale against West Virginia on Nov. 23, but as for this week, it could be a game-time decision.
NEXT FRIDAY AFTERNOON — Iowa State’s regular-season finale against West Virginia at Jack Trice Stadium will kick off at 2:30 p.m. next Friday and will be aired live on ABC.