Big 12 play starts on Thursday for Iowa State and Texas, and interestingly both programs find themselves in similar positions. Cyclones coach Matt Campbell is still building this program in Year 2, and getting a win over Texas would be a big step in getting this team toward bowl eligibility.
Texas is also building under first-year coach Tom Herman, and while a win in Ames, Iowa, would be more routine, a loss would signify there’s still a lot of work to be done before the Longhorns are close to relevant. And let’s not forget the last time Texas traveled to Jack Trice Stadium in 2015 it left with a stunning 24-0 loss.
With Thursday night all to themselves, here’s what to watch for in an intriguing early Big 12 game.
Date: Thursday, Sept. 28 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Jack Trice Stadium — Ames, Iowa
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
Texas: Which Texas will show up? The one that got its doors blown off by Maryland or the one that came oh-so-close to beating USC in Los Angeles? If it’s the latter, the Longhorns defense should make Iowa State one-dimensional by taking away the run. Todd Orlando’s defense has already shown a better knack for getting takeaways with four interceptions in three games. The problem is, Texas has a propensity for giving the ball right back. Discipline in ball security and penalties — mental errors in general — is where Texas needs to show the most growth. Also, how does quarterback Shane Buchele look if he returns from his shoulder injury? Buechele has received a majority of the first-team reps in practice, but freshman Sam Ehlinger has started the past two games and played well. The quarterback storyline for the Horns won’t go away — for now.
Iowa State: The Cyclones are 2-1 because they took care of business against Northern Iowa and Akron, and they came devastatingly close to beating Iowa. (In fact, they probably should have.) Finishing has to be the difference between this year and last year for Campbell’s team. There’s no doubt Iowa State is well-coached, but the final 30 minutes were a big problem in many of last year’s nine losses. In one game against a quality opponent, Iowa State failed to close the deal again. If six wins is really the goal — and it should be because the offense is good enough to get it there — the Cyclones have to get this one.
Jack Trice is going to be rocking and Iowa State can be deadly there. It’ll be interesting to see if Texas’ defense picks up where it left off against USC in stopping the run. The Cyclones can score, however, and receiver Allen Lazard is a pill. They key for Texas will be taking better care of the ball and minimizing the mental errors. Both teams have had an extra week to prepare and should be healthier. Expect a fun, tight game, but Texas has enough to get it done in the end with running back Chris Warren, who should get a lion’s share of the carries. Pick: Iowa State +6.5