The Texas Longhorns may hold a 12-2 advantage in the all-time series against Iowa State, but the recent history between these two schools has been anything but lopsided.
The last two seasons featured alternating blowouts, with Texas claiming the 2016 matchup with 27-6 win in Austin. The last time Texas went to Ames it was the Cyclones on the giving end of the beating, dominating the ‘Horns 24-0 on the back of Joel Lanning’s 270 total yards and two touchdowns. Both the 2013 and 2014 meetings required game-winning drives on the final possession for Texas to emerge victorious.
Second-year head coach Matt Campbell has the Cyclones players bought in and is turning around a program that, heading into this season, was 11-37 in the last four years. Through three weeks, the second-year head coach has his team boasting a 2-1 record, which could very easily be 3-0. The Cyclones only loss this year was an overtime thriller against in-state rival Iowa. The Cyclones were forced to settle for a field goal after receiver Hakeem Butler dropped first down pass. On the ensuing possesion, the Hawkeyes punched in a touchdown for a three-point win.
Iowa State’s success starts with an offense offense that has cruised through their first three games, averaging 41 points and 460 yards per game, taking advantage of the talents of junior signal caller Jacob Park.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior took over as the primary quarterback for the Cyclones late last season after Campbell overhauled some of the skill positions to try and right the ship after a 1-6 start. Park closed the season with three huge games, racking up 861 yards and four touchdowns. He started 2017 in the same fashion and through three games this season, is averaging 311.66 yards per game and eight touchdowns.
Park’s success on Thursday hinges on the Longhorns’ ability to lock down his dynamic duo of receivers, 6-foot-6 sophomore Hakeem Butler and 6-foot-5 senior Allen Lazard. Butler leads the team in receiving yards, with 234, while Lazard sets the pace in receptions with 19. The two share the team lead in receiving touchdowns with three.
Iowa State’s air attack is potent, but they may also have one of the most dynamic playmakers in the conference in sophomore running back David Montgomery.
Montgomery was another piece of Campbell’s offensive overhaul a season ago, receiving the reins in the running game for the Cyclones’ final four games of the season. In seven games since that time, the 5-foot-11, 219-pound runner amassed 713 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Perhaps even more impressive is his ability to avoid negative plays, as he’s lost only 16 yards on his runs. Some of that credit may also go to Iowa State’s offensive line, which is relatively inexperienced, but skilled and two-deep across the board.
Defensively, the Cyclones still remain relatively untested and unproven this season, as their only contest against a Power 5 team resulted in 44 points allowed and an overtime loss.
The defense is statistically led by Lanning, who converted to linebacker in the offseason in an effort to bolster that unit for the Cyclones. In the middle of the Iowa State defense, Lanning has been a ball shark, racking up 26 total tackles, including four for loss and one interception.
Iowa State’s secondary is easily their most-experienced unit, as all four starting defensive backs return from a year ago, including two-year starter Brian Peavy and team captain Kamari Cotton-Moya.
Peavy may be their best cover corner, as well as a capable open-field tackler, with 21 tackles on the season, two passes broken up and one interception. Cotton-Moya, who did not play against Akron due to an elbow injury, is still questionable to play against Texas, but if he is on the field he will be a big help matching up against these big Texas receivers. Cotton-Moya is the Cyclones’ biggest defensive back at 6-foot-2, still four inches shorter than Texas wideout Collin Johnson.
The Longhorns head to Ames this week with a chance to start conference play with a win, something they haven’t done since beating Kansas on the road in 2014. If Texas cannot do that, they run the risk of going without a conference win for the first four weeks of the season, as they follow Iowa State with Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State; three of the top teams in the conference.