Preview/Prediction: Iowa State vs. Texas

Chris Williams

Publisher

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What: Iowa State (1-2) vs. Texas (2-2, 1-0)
When: Thursday, Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Jack Trice Stadium
TV: ESPN

I've got a programming idea for The Longhorn Network. Just follow your athletic department around for two months and film everybody and everything. This mega-show could turn into anything from a hit soap opera to a uncultivated reality show.

D-R-A-M-A.

That is Texas athletic department right now. Football has a lot to do with that too. Having your manhood ripped away from you in Provo, Utah of all places is not good for business.

Sure, Texas just defeated Kansas State 31-21 two Saturday’s ago but even so, Mack Brown’s seat is still scorching. And the following fact doesn’t help his cause…

Texas’ director of athletics, “Boss” DeLoss Dodds, announced his retirement on Tuesday, which is never a good thing for a beleaguered head coach.

Oh, and Texas won’t have its starting quarterback David Ash on Thursday night either. 

What does all of this mean for Iowa State? Likely, not much. After all, games are won and lost in the trenches and on the football field. 

Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack and the ever-so popular Samantha Steele (the Vikings fan in me makes it hard to call her "Ponder") are coming to town. For Iowa State, this is a game that can turn its season around. For Texas, the Longhorns once again will be in total desperation mode when they take the field on Thursday night.

Here’s your preview.

The Longhorns will win if…

…They prove to everybody that Iowa State’s offensive outburst last against Tulsa was a fluke.

That is a big “if” though considering that through four games this season, the Longhorns are currently ranked 109th nationally in total defense. Add too that – it isn’t like New Mexico State, BYU, Ole Miss and Kansas State are offensive juggernauts.  

How bad has Texas’ defense been? Game two vs. BYU was legendary – in a not so good way – as the Longhorns were gashed for 679 yards of total offense and 550 on the ground. Yes, against Brigham (bleeping) Young. 

It was after that debacle when a desperate Mack Brown canned defensive coordinator Manny Diaz (Diaz didn’t get fired, Diaz got canned and there is a difference) for the embattled Greg Robinson. On Monday, I asked Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads what differences he’s seen on tape regarding how the Longhorns have played under each man.

“Good bit of difference,” Rhoads said. “They are less risk taking, less gambling if you will. Not as many people coming from different spots. They are aligned where they are supposed to be with great consistency.”

Since Robinson took over the defense, the Longhorns have given up 449 yards to Ole Miss and 390 to Kansas State, two very different offenses. Texas has given up a lot of yards this season but even so, it is still an incredibly talented football team. It's important to not forget that. Iowa State faced Texas in a similar situation back in 2011 and it did not end well for the Cyclone Nation. 

“It’s Texas. They are fast. They are athletic. It’s a basic Longhorn defense,” Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson said. “They are just going to man you up and they think that their guys are better than ours.”

“Texas is Texas.”

If only I had a five-spot for every time I heard that this week...

It is true too. There are more recruiting stars compiled on Texas’ defensive line than on Iowa State’s offense combined. But that hasn’t been where the Longhorns have struggled this season.

“I think the shortest one (defensive lineman) is 6-foot-4,” Iowa State running back Jeff Woody said. “They can push anybody around. That’s what they do. Whatever offensive line scheme that you have, they are going to push them back into the running back and quarterback’s lap to make decisions a lot faster.” 

Over the last three seasons really, Texas has struggled when it comes to tackling. If Iowa State can get its playmakers open in space on Thursday, this upset could very easily go down. If that big Texas defensive line has its way with the Cyclones like say, Iowa’s did, then this one could get ugly. 

Quotable: Mack Brown on playing in Ames…

“Our guys are not going up there thinking this is not going to be a very competitive football game or a tough game. They'll enjoy the environment. It will be fun. The Ames people are very positive. I spent three years there. They love their team. They'll have one of the biggest crowds in their school history. It will be a fun night for football.”

The Cyclones will win if…

…They turn the Longhorns over multiple times. Get this through your thick skull right now Fanatics. Texas is going to put up yards on Iowa State. This is a stone-cold lock of a prediction. Barring a monsoon hitting Ames (stay tuned), Texas will gain well over 400-yards or more against the Cyclones. The Longhorns enter Thursday ranked 31st in total offense and even in the games they have lost, they’ve put up yards. The 445 that Texas put up against BYU is a good example.

It is the basic anatomy of an upset. Iowa State, a 9-point underdog, has to win the turnover battle in this one. It just has to. There is no way around it.

Quotable: Paul Rhoads on Mack Brown… 

“Mack Brown is held in the highest esteem by the coaches in this league and all of his peers across the country. This is a guy that has been there and done that with high character and high integrity. One of the decisions Mack Brown makes every morning is which championship that he puts on his hand as he goes to work. There’s not a lot of folks who can say that or have to make that decision.”

Three key storylines to watch for…

The weather – Watch this latest forecast by WHO-TV 13 meteorologist Brett McIntyre and try convincing yourself that it might not be a factor. Usually, bad weather favors the underdog and serves as an equalizer. But Texas will want to keep the football on the ground in this one. I’m not convinced that this is a good thing for Iowa State. The Cyclones aren't good enough to win and be one-dimensional offensively. 

Sam Richardson – The sophomore picked up his first win as a starting quarterback vs. Tulsa and should be as confident as ever. But Texas is not Tulsa. Iowa State has to have superb quarterback play to slay the mighty Longhorns. Play-calling, the running game and adequate offensive line play are all imperative too but when the play is there, Richardson has to make the throw like he did for the most part in second half scoring outbursts against Iowa and Tulsa. He has to be better out of the gate though.  

Tackling – Iowa State has missed a combined 14 tackles in its last two football games. That is really, really good. You know how the Cyclones tackled in week one against UNI? That’s what Texas’ crew has looked like all season long. Look for tackling on both sides of the football to be a critical aspect of Thursday night’s game.

Prediction 

This is a “prove me wrong” type of game.

As Brent Blum pointed out this week, Iowa State hasn’t won its Big 12 opener since the year 2002.

Last season’s turnover plagued loss to Texas Tech was a colossal disappointment. In 2011, this very Texas program ruined what would have been a 4-0 start in a bad way, by dominating the Cyclones 37-14.

Last week’s game vs. Tulsa was a game that over history, Paul Rhoads’ teams have mostly won. This week’s game vs. Texas is a game that over history, Paul Rhoads’ teams have generally lost.

When trying to decide on whom to pick here, ask yourself this question: How good do you believe Kansas State is? Prior to that win, Texas was 1-2 with a win over lowly New Mexico State (who notably has the 123rd ranked defense in the country, that’s dead last by the way), an embarrassing loss to BYU while dropping a home game to a good Ole Miss team as well. The Longhorns are 0-1 on the road and by no means have proven to me that they are “back” or that they’ve snapped out of anything.

But neither has Iowa State. 

Last week's pasting of Tulsa was a step in the right direction, but I need to see more. Until then, I just can’t pick the Cyclones to defeat a team that many folks thought would be in the best in the Big 12 this season. 

The pick

Texas 24, Iowa State 17 

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