Finally, after over a month, the Texas Longhorns are back home for its game this Saturday, as the Iowa State Cyclones are coming to town.
And if this game is anything like the last three games Texas has played in, there will be points — a lot of them.
1) D’Onta Foreman... enough said.
If I didn’t write anything else, you’d probably get what I’m talking about, but let’s touch on this anyways.
Iowa State defends the rush about as well as Texas defends the pass. Allowing an average of 235.5 yards per game, 5.18 yards per carry, and a total of 15 rushing touchdowns on the season ranks the Cyclones’ defense dead last among Big 12 teams in all three of those categories.
Unfortunately for Iowa State, Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman currently sits atop the conference in rushing yards per game (148.75), average yards per carry (6.84), and is tied for first in rushing touchdowns (7).
If he keeps these stats up, he could start getting linked to Heisman conversations, though the unfortunate reality is that the overall Texas record will likely keep him out of the serious discussions.
If Foreman doesn’t have a great game against Iowa State either he’ll have gotten hurt, Texas will have lost, or both (no jinx’s allowed).
2) How will each team’s passing attack perform?
Interestingly enough, both the Longhorns and Cyclones average similar numbers through the air and have posted similar stats on the season.
Texas: 62.6% comp, 7.8 yds/att, 12.5 yds/comp, 254 yds/gm, 11 TD, 5 INT, 144.16 RTG
ISU: 59% comp, 7.7 yds/att, 13 yds/comp, 249.7 yds/gm, 13 TD, 5 INT, 140.37 RTG.
The difference in this game, of course, will be the defense each passing attack is going up against.
Texas ranks last in the conference and second to last in the nation (just better than Rice) in defensive passing efficiency while Iowa State ranks fifth in the conference and 73rd in the nation.
Frankly, Iowa State has been average to decent at defending the pass while Texas has continued to struggle, as we all know. And Texas would kill for average right now.
When the game ends, Iowa State very well could have the better passing stats. The Cyclones will want to test this Longhorns secondary often, and Texas should look to run the ball more than it passes.
But Texas will likely take a few deep shots of its own down the field, and it could complete a few of them if the Cyclones defense begins crowding the line and keying in on the run too much.
For Texas’ sake, hopefully being back home will help freshman quarterback Shane Buechele have a more efficient and accurate game than what we saw against Oklahoma. He didn’t play poorly in Dallas at all, but he can play better than that.
3) The Texas defensive line could help its secondary more, but how much more?
I’ve seen a lot of people say that Texas needs more sacks. And though I’d agree more sacks would undoubtedly help this defense just like it would help any defense, we have to recognize that Texas is already one of the conference and national leaders in generating sacks.
Averaging three per game, Texas is tied at second in the conference with Oklahoma State and tied for 22nd nationally. To put this in perspective even more, the Aggies defense that is known for its pass-rushing defensive ends, Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall, is averaging 3.33 per game and ranks 15th nationally as a team.
With that said, Texas was only able to get to Baker Mayfield once in the Cotton Bowl, so finding those sacks again this week at home will be needed in order to help get the Cyclones quarterback out of rhythm any way the Texas defense can.
4) Can Malik Jefferson pick his game up?
Let’s be honest, the sophomore linebacker has been struggling this year. And to make things more frustrating, no one really has a good explanation as to why.
Given this game is a home game, the Cyclones aren’t necessarily a strong running team (7th in the conference in yards per carry and yards per game), and ISU’s offensive line is prone to giving up sacks, this could be just the type of opportunity Malik needs to finish with a productive game.
In the long run, Malik should be fine (*does the Catholic cross sign on head & shoulders*). But for whatever reason, he’s been struggling so far this season, and a productive game this Saturday could lead to a more productive second half of the season.
5) Will the 18-wheeler package get back to its old, successful ways?
I’m not so sure this will be the game where quarterback Tyrone Swoopes attempts a pass out of the 18-Wheeler package because he may not need to do so.
Since we know Iowa State isn’t strong against the run, this could be a great opportunity for Swoopes to find success running the ball again out of his package.
I’ll be curious to see when and in what type of situations offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert puts Swoopes and the 18-Wheeler package out on the field Saturday evening, and then gauge how it performs, of course.
Ultimately, each offense will likely score a handful of times. But this could be a game where the Texas secondary actually looks better than it has the past few weeks.
I don’t see any of Iowa State’s wide receivers as the type of deep-threats this Texas defense has gone up against the past few weeks. Then again, this secondary has been making things too easy on their own for opposing receivers as of late.