Texas will host a pesky Iowa State team Saturday morning in what is sure to be an emotional day at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
David Ash needs to be sharp against a team that lives and dies on creating turnovers.
The Cyclones haven't been able to break through and join the conference's elite, but over the past two years under head coach Paul Rhoads Iowa State has been the fly in the ointment by pulling off some big upsets - last year vs. Oklahoma State, 2010 at Texas.
Texas is coming off its best win of the season, but in recent weeks the Longhorns have struggled coming off of good performances. Did they finally turn the corner in Lubbock last week to at least come close to the team we were all expecting to see at the start of the season? Or are we in for another flat, 11:00 a.m. performance from the Horns?
This may surprise some, but I think Iowa State is the second best run defense Texas will face this year behind only Oklahoma. The Iowa State D will play a physical brand of football that will stymie the Texas run game at times Saturday. Texas has had trouble scoring against better run-defense teams. David Ash needs to be sharp, especially off of play action and in the flats, and Bryan Harsin needs to get the ball in space more to the Horns' playmakers. I think it's going to be tough sledding for the Texas offense - even if Texas succeeds in its game plan, I just don't expect the Horns' offense to have much consistency against ISU. I feel like it'll look more like the effort against Kansas than it will the ones against Texas Tech or Oklahoma State. At the same time, Iowa State's offense has been hit-and-miss all season. They'll have spurts of success but then they'll be inconsistent for long stretches at a time. The big play that Texas must defend is the zone read. If the Texas defense has worked out its kinks enough to stop that key play, then the defense should be in promising shape. At the end of the day, I think Texas just has too many weapons for the Cyclones. Texas needs to hit one or two big plays.
Texas 28, Iowa State 17
This would typically be a game Texas has no reason to be up for, but now they have every reason to come out with both barrels smoking. Iowa State won the rushing battle two years ago in its upset win over Texas in Austin, and the Longhorns won it by only 18 yards last season. This is a game where the Longhorns will face physical fronts on both sides and the carryover from the Texas Tech win where both lines were the better units against the opponent needs to be duplicated. Texas can't afford a setback, and the program needs to continue to generate all of the positive momentum it can. Add the need to not let one sneak up and bite them, and the need to build on the Tech win, add to the mix that this game is being dedicated in part to Darrell Royal's memory, and the Longhorns have no reason to come out flat. Iowa State will be a tougher challenge than some think, I think this game is close for at least a half. I think the difference is what the difference has been for Iowa State in their losses: their offense just won't be able to score enough at the end of the day.
Texas 34, Iowa State 17
I feel confident Texas will win this game, but I'm not sure that's a good thing for the Longhorns. Since Big 12 play started anytime I've been confident about a Texas win they've performed poorly. The only way Texas loses this game is if it makes stupid mistakes that keeps Iowa State around. The Cyclones are one of the top teams in the country at forcing turnovers, so David Ash and the Texas ball carriers will need to be very focused on ball control. I think this game will be a fast one with both teams trying to force the issue on the ground, but I don't think the Cyclones have the bodies to be able to run on what looks to be an improved Texas defense since the coaches have dumbed it down and stopped trying to be fancy on the line of scrimmage. The ISU defense won't be easy to run on, but I think Texas can do it enough, and get enough out of the play-action game again to separate itself from the low-scoring Cyclones.
Texas 31, Iowa State 17
Sometimes stats don't tell the story, and sometimes they can certainly paint a picture and that is very likely the case headed into Saturday. Iowa State is 83rd in FBS in total defense. Not a good thing going against a Texas offense that is beginning to simplify things. Iowa State has played two road games in Big 12 play, and is giving up 27 points per game. In four games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma, the Cyclones have surrendered 31.3 points per game. Offensively, Iowa State is the No. 92 team in FBS, and more importantly not the type of team that is likely to exploit the issues of the Longhorns defense - with the understanding that Texas has also simplified things on the defensive side of the ball and that favors the more physically talented team in this match-up. While not discounting the ability of Paul Rhoads to get his team up and seemingly pull a big upset every season, it's hard to see it this week. Texas has more talent, the key offensive players are now seeing the ball and field more and more and it's a home game with Texas riding some feel good momentum and confidence for the first time since the Ole Miss win.
Texas 34, Iowa State 17
I feel much more comfortable about this game now than I did a week ago, especially with Texas surprising everyone (including myself) this past Saturday by beating Texas Tech 31-22. If the Longhorns can continue that level of play they shouldn’t have too many problems on Saturday in Austin. Luckily for the Texas defense, Iowa State doesn’t exactly excel at running the ball, but at some points during the season that hasn’t really mattered as teams have done it well against the Horns. Because of that I think we’ll see Iowa State try to establish the run early on. I’m not real worried about quarterback Steel Jantz, because he hasn’t been playing well at all lately. If you take away his game against Baylor, he’s thrown one touchdown and five interceptions through the past four games. I think Texas’ defense looks better again this week and I expect the Horns’ offense to have a lot of success both on the ground and through the air. It will be close to last year’s game with the same outcome.
Texas 48, Iowa State 20