For years, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has insisted that the Cyclones are bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic than ever.

This could be the season that the Big 12 learns just how far Iowa State has come under Rhoads.

The breakthrough under Rhoads hasn't come quite yet. The Cyclones have finished 6-7 in each of the past two season and they'll have to replace 11 starters, more than any other team in the league.

There's optimism in Ames that Rhoads can keep Iowa State from falling off the proverbial cliff in 2013. The Cyclones open the season at home Aug. 31 against Northern Iowa.