For years, one of the challenges for Iowa State ahead of its season opener was trying to overcome low expectations that often turned out to be justified.

How will the Cyclones handle being expected to be a handful for once?

Iowa State (8-5 in 2017) will open the season Saturday against South Dakota State, ranked third nationally in the FCS and a team the Cyclones are expected to beat. Still, even though Iowa State returns one of its most talented and cohesive teams in recent memory, a tough, front-loaded schedule looms ahead.

After the Jackrabbits leave Ames, Iowa State travels to Iowa City to face a Hawkeyes team that has won the last two three in the rivalry. The Cyclones then host No. 7 Oklahoma — which will undoubtedly be seeking revenge after Iowa State handed the Sooners their only Big 12 loss a year ago.

Iowa State's final breather will be a home date against Akron. The Cyclones then play at No. 16 TCU on Sept. 29, at Oklahoma State and then host No. 17 West Virginia on Oct. 13.

"We're defined by adversity. And once when adversity hits...and it's going to happen, it's just a matter of when that's coming for this year's team," coach Matt Campbell said. "You've got a million different things that can happen, and that can come a million different ways. But to be honest with you, the teams that thrive and have the ability to achieve and reach their full potential are the ones that have the ability to overcome it."

After a bye, Iowa State plays just one preseason Top 25 team, No. 23 Texas, to close 2018.

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