AMES - They're not hitting the reset button, but there is again some uncertainty in the Iowa State football team's quarterback situation.
Steele Jantz remains at the top of the Cyclones' depth chart at the outset of the week that culminates with a Homecoming contest Saturday against No. 17 Texas A&M (2:30 p.m., ABC), but ISU head coach Paul Rhoads left the door open for redshirt freshman Jared Barnett to get the nod.
"I think we're going to practice through and see by the end of the week who we think has the best chance to lead our football team to victory against Texas A&M," Rhoads said at his Monday news conference.
Jantz's play and the Cyclones' fortunes have faltered since the City College of San Francisco transfer flashed playmaking skills in come-from-behind wins in the first three games of the season.
He also showed a tendency to turn the ball over, and that's been the only apparent attribute as the Cyclones (3-3, 0-3) have lost three straight.
Jantz was 17-for-32 for 161 yards last week in ISU's 52-17 loss to Missouri before being pulled for Barnett, who threw an interception on his first pass but later led ISU on its only offensive scoring drive of the day.
Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1) at
Iowa State (3-3, 0-3)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Jack Trice Stadium, Ames
The junior Jantz has thrown eight interceptions and lost four fumbles on the season.
After going through a three-man competition through spring and summer that ended with Jantz as the starter, Barnett the backup and Jerome Tiller academically ineligible, Iowa State is no stranger to quarterback unsettledness.
Still, Rhoads admitted the Cyclones would not have started the year off 3-0 if not for Jantz's inspired play and it's unclear if leaving an opening for Barnett is designed to provide Jantz motivation and another wrinkle for the Aggies (4-2, 2-1) to prepare for.
"I do feel like my chances are higher (to play)," said Barnett, "but I still have to go and prepare myself because I'm not going to know who's going to be the starter until Saturday comes.
"Right now my role is still the backup quarterback and every week I always build myself up like I'm going to start and like I'm going to play.
"So I have to build myself up like that this week."
Making things more difficult for Jantz is the persistence of a foot sprain he suffered a month ago against Connecticut.
"I think he's playing through a lot of pain, and I think that's affected him," said Rhoads. "In assessing that I'd like to get him back healthy to say, 'This is quote, unquote grade of where I think he's at right now.'
"Without him, we don't win those first three football games and we're going to need him down the stretch to continue to compete and meet the expectations of this football program."
Jantz declined to use his bum wheel as an excuse for he recent run of poor play.
"I just have to figure out a way to execute with maybe not being as fast as I'd like to be," he said. "I'd like to say it doesn't (affect my passing), but it might. It's hard to know.
"I've had it for awhile now so if it's not going to get better I just have to learn to play with it."
Injured or not, if Jantz does make his seventh career start Saturday, he'll likely be given less leeway to make mistakes after ceding to Barnett against the Tigers.
There may be added pressure on the quarterback this week as well as Texas A&M ranks first in the Big 12 and fifth nationally in rushing defense.
The Aggies allow just 72.33 yards per game on the ground and 2.2 yards per carry.
They do, however, rank dead last in passing defense, surrendering 433.67 yards through the air per contest.
A&M has also faced passed more passing attempts (284) than any team in the country, a product of their stout rush defense.
Iowa State will also be without running back Shontrelle Johnson, who is likely done for the year with a neck injury, according to Rhoads.
And as such, the spotlight will be even brighter on the quarterback, whomever it may be.
"The quarterback is still the pivotal player on the field. He touches the ball every snap, he's making decisions with the ball in his hand," said Rhoads. "It's just the nature of that position that you're going to get the most credit or the most critique when things aren't going as efficiently as they need to."