Following a poor start to the 2016 season under new head coach Matt Campbell, the Iowa State Cyclones are showing improvement after two close losses, but not enough to avoid opening as 13.5-point underdogs to the Texas Longhorns.
Saturday’s 6 p.m. CT contest in Austin on the Longhorn Network will feature a Texas team coming off three consecutive losses and seeking to atone for last season’s 24-0 loss to Iowa State in Ames.
The return home could help bolster a reeling Longhorns program that just spent the last month on the road.
However, recent history suggests that this game will be closer than the initial spread — Iowa State secured the program’s first victory over Texas with a 2010 victory in Austin before losing close contests in 2013 and 2014.
Then there was the 2015 disaster for the Longhorns. Coming a week after former head coach Paul Rhoads fired offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, the shutout victory over the Texas was astonishing and ranks as the single worst loss of head coach Charlie Strong’s tenure with the ‘Horns.
All told, it’s clear Rhoads had a unique ability to prepare his teams against the Longhorns, while Texas likely underestimated Iowa State in several of those seasons.
Next weekend will provide some perspective on whether Campbell possesses a similar touch. And whether holding out hope for Strong to turn things around is worth the effort with the Texas head coach likely needing to win six of the final seven regular-season games.