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Big 12 football: Even President Obama paying attention to Paul Rhoads, ISU

BY BERRY TRAMEL, Staff Writer, Modified: August 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm •  Published: August 31, 2012

Strange days for Iowa State football.

In the same week that President Obama gave Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads a shout-out, Iowa State was pronounced a home underdog to a Conference USA opponent. Tulsa is a 1 1/2-point favorite Saturday over Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium.

Obama stopped by Ames on Tuesday and told the assembled crowd, “I won't pretend I can give a speech like Coach Rhoads can, but I'm going to try.”

Rhoads, whose locker room speeches have gained Internet fame, didn't let the reference go to his head.

“There was some good research done there by his writers,” Rhoads said. “They had him prepared. He didn't know my name before he said it, and he forgot it right after he said it, nonetheless, still pretty cool.”

And Rhoads was non-pulsed by the underdog status, even though ISU is coming off a season in which it beat arch-rival Iowa and spoiled OSU's national championship hopes with that memorable double-overtime victory last November.

“We've got all kinds of respect for Tulsa and their football program,” Rhoads said.

But he did warn that the Cyclones are a far cry better than when he took over after the 2008 season.

These August drills were “different … it was a football team that understood how to

train, how to practice, how to work. I'm very encouraged by that.”

Iowa State needs more consistent quarterbacking. Steele Jantz was named the starter for Tulsa, beating out Jared Barnett, who took over for Jantz after seven games last season. Truth is, neither was effective enough to consistently win in the Big 12.

But the leader of the Free World knows the Cyclones' coach's name. There's something to be said for that.