At 1-2 through three games, the the Texas Longhorns are already at a fork in their season entering Big 12 play. Following a valiant effort against No. 4 USC, a win would allow Texas to continue building momentum entering a grueling stretch of its schedule.
A loss, on the other hand, would give Texas its worst start since 1956 and hope for finding five more wins to reach bowl eligibility would be minimal.
The Burnt Orange Nation staff got together to predict which side of those two extremes Texas should find itself on come Thursday night.
Ames is an odd place to play on a weeknight, for reasons that are particularly clear beyond the fact that their mascot is literally a spinning vortex of trouble. The hope is that Tom Herman can start to exorcise the demons he was partly responsible for initiating in 2010 against a team that has good offensive coaching and some definite talent on offense. Iowa State has been good against the run on defense and better at creating interceptions than stopping the pass, so the banged-up Texas offensive line is a major question mark in this game, as is the decision-making for the 'Horns at quarterback. This one comes down to the wire, but Herman's team has more talent and that should tell in the end. Texas 35, Iowa State 31.
I like the way Texas matches up with this Iowa State squad. Offensively, although the Cyclones rank 18th nationally in passing yards per game, they’ll need a nice night from running back David Montgomery to win and I’m fairly confident in Texas’ run defense after holding USC to 71 yards. Flip the field and Iowa State’s strength is its run defense, and in regards to the current state of Texas’ ground game, there isn’t much to stop. The Cyclones’ secondary, on the other hand, ranks 118th nationally in yards allowed per game so with Shane Buechele presumably taking the offensive reins once again, the ‘Horns should be able to connect on a few strikes down the field.
It will be close, but I have Texas pulling away down the stretch, 31-17.
Collin Johnson - 150 yards 2 TDs. The big receiver matches up favorably with the Iowa State secondary — still four inches taller than the Cyclones' tallest defensive back — and has become a favorite target of both Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele. Heading into the bye week, Tom Herman said that they were going to work with Johnson on beating coverage off of the line, and if he can add that skillset to his size and talent, he has the potential to be an all-time player for the Longhorns. Off of his receiving performance and a reappearance of the running game, Texas wins a close game 35-31.
27-17 Texas. The defense will have another stout performance to keep the rowdy crowd in Ames quiet for the most part. Buechele will connect on a pair of passing touchdowns. Texas will play a complete four quarter game leading to a 10-point victory.
I'm going to say Texas 24, Iowa State 17, but I don't feel great about it. Three games in and I don't know that anyone can say with certainty what kind of team Texas has on either side of the ball. ISU has put up at least 40 points in each of its first three games and if the Texas defense that played Maryland makes the trip to Ames, they'll do it again. But I'm banking on the defense looking across the line and seeing what basically amounts to USC's uniforms, but filled with lesser athletes, and continues its marked improvement that started in LA. Texas scores a touchdown on defense or special teams to make the final difference.
What are your predictions for the ‘Horns in their fourth appearance of the year?