After gaining some much-needed momentum last weekend with a win over a ranked Kansas State squad, the Texas Longhorns are back in action and on the road on Saturday afternoon for a meeting with the Iowa State Cyclones.
The BON staff got together to weigh in on the state of the team entering Texas’ road trip to Ames, and much more.
Texas avoided back-to-back losses by dropping No. 16 Kansas State at home last week. Fan confidence appears to be marginally increasing. What are you taking away from last week’s contest?
Wes Crochet: This team is still flirting with what most would define as a successful season compared to a disappointment, and it’s not clear whether the team will finish trending up or down.
Daniel Seahorn: After a less than stellar performance in Ft. Worth against TCU, this team was able to circle the wagons coming off the bye and gut out a win against a scrappy Kansas State team. Being able to right the ship against the Wildcats before heading to Ames could prove to be the confidence booster they need heading into the final stretch of the season.
Anthony Rizzo: Besides seeing improved play from a healthier secondary, Texas got off to another brutally slow start. That can’t happen on the road, The Longhorns have to put together complete games going forward.
Kansas State was the Big 12’s least explosive offense. Iowa State is one of its most explosive. What worries you the most about the Cyclones?
Wes: The Cyclones are a well-coached, scrappy team with a pretty clear identity on both sides of the ball. Texas needs to bring its “A” game to Ames and what worries me is Texas hasn’t shown it’s “A” game recently. Maybe Texas can afford a “B” grade type of game but anything less seems like it will be a loss.
Seahorn: Being able to generate pressure on Brock Purdy and limiting coverage busts on the back end. Texas is getting healthy in the secondary, but I still worry about the defense’s ability to generate pressure without having to bring extra blitzers and they could lead to some big plays down the field if those pressures don’t get home to Purdy.
Anthony: It starts with Brock Purdy. While Texas shutdown Iowa State’s offense in last year’s matchup, Purdy is now more experienced playing behind Iowa State’s best offensive line unit since Matt Campbell took over. Similar to Ehlinger, Purdy does an excellent job of extending plays while keeping his eyes downfield. Texas’ defensive backs could be in for a long night if Purdy sees extended time in the pocket.
Texas has only left the state once this year -- a road game against West Virginia. This game will be tougher -- not just because of the opponent but because of the weather. How much of an advantage is a cold weather game for ISU?
Wes: Maybe it’s some sort of advantage but I’m not sold the temperature is a huge advantage. Texas’ physical culture should be able to hold up in cold weather.
Seahorn: I think once the game gets going the cold won’t be as much of a factor. Once you are able to get out in it and let your body adjust it is pretty much business as usual, unless there is a lot of rain or snow and that’s not really in the forecast for Saturday in Ames.
Anthony: It may have a slight impact on both teams, but Texas’ physicality was never questioned in those colder away games at Kansas State and Kansas last year. This team should be built for all circumstances.
Keaontay Ingram had his best game of the season against Kansas State -- rushing 16 times for 139 yards (both season highs). Does Texas keep feeding him the rock this week? Where does Texas have advantages offensively against Iowa State?
Wes: Even though Iowa State is very respectable against the run, I’d think Texas gives Keaontay opportunities to see what he can make happen. As for advantages, there is some athleticism advantages at receiver to a degree for Texas. I’ll be watching whether Texas can keep Iowa State guessing with the play calls. Watch for this... First down pass, second down run, and a third down play-call based on the situation. Iowa State’s situational defensive stats may motivate the Longhorns to run a cadence like that... Or maybe I’m just a big nerd.
Seahorn: With Ingram and the run game continuing to improve as the year goes on, I think it will be important to establish that early and for Texas to impose its will early and often in the contest. Let 26 get going early on to wear the ISU defense down and come the 4th quarter the talent and depth of Texas should eventually take its toll. While I love seeing Ingram get plenty of totes, I still think it is important that the staff continues to mix in a good dose of Roschon Johnson given that he provides a nice change of pace and a diversified skill set to the offense when Ingram needs a breather.
As far as advantages go, I think Texas talent at the skill position could give ISU trouble on the perimeter, but if Collin Johnson isn’t able to go then things get a little more interesting in the matchup.
Anthony: Yes. Ingram’s performance against K-State was pretty significant. Roschon Johnson also needs to be involved more to help mix things up offensively. This is a game where Texas has to imply its will to run the ball and control drives to keep the defense well-rested on the sidelines. We’ve seen it happen against Iowa State the past two seasons under Herman. Rhythm and consistency remains the biggest key for this Texas offense. Oklahoma’s up-tempo style of play gave the Cyclones all sorts of problems last week. I’d like to see a lot more urgency and tempo from this group on Saturday.
What are you most concerned with heading into the Iowa State game, and what about Texas, at this current point, inspires the most confidence?
Wes: Biggest concern is Texas plays flat and can’t put it together on either side of the ball. Texas will need a complete game. Any confidence I have for Texas comes the thought that a close game last week that ended in a win will have this team honing in on what its challenges have been recently.
Seahorn: I’m most concerned with how the offense will respond to being without Collin Johnson if he ends up being held out and I’m also concerned Texas having to be down its best corner in Jalen Green for a half given how explosive ISU has been on offense. I’d say having Ehlinger under center still inspires the most confidence for me, because with him out there you are never truly out of a ball game.
Anthony: I fear a ‘B’ or ‘C’ game performance from Texas, but also realize that Texas has a Top 10 offense on their side. Generating enough stops/turnovers, while turning those stops/turnovers into points remains the biggest key for Texas. Unlike against K-State, the offense has to convert at a high rate in Ames.
Prediction time: Does Texas pull off what some might consider to be an upset over Iowa State?
Wes: I’ve gone back and forth on this game because I can’t figure out which Texas team will show up. But in the end, I’m leaning Texas in another close one. Having some key defenders back again could help, and this could be a game where we see Sam run more than normal against a defense gave up two rushing scores and 70 yards on the ground to Jalen Hurts last week. Texas 31, Iowa State 27.
Seahorn: I’ve struggled with this one all week because the thought of playing in Ames makes me nervous. On top of that ISU is a tough, well-coached team that will no doubt give Texas their best shot and that makes me think this one will end up being a nail biter that could go either way in the final minutes.
I’ll go against the grain here and say Texas drops a heart breaker in Ames. Iowa State 31 Texas 28
Anthony: Apologies to the Big 12’s most likable program besides Texas, but the Cyclones will be .500 after Saturday’s game. Texas 34, Iowa State 30.