Iowa State Cyclones (1-2, 0-0) vs. Texas Longhorns (2-2, 1-0)
Iowa State Rush Offense vs. Texas Rush Defense
Can the Aaron Wimberly express continue to roll past stops? It's a thorny question. The Cyclones have been productive on the ground once in three games, mainly because of Wimberly's 7.2 yards per carry against Tulsa. Texas' defense has been adept at stopping the run once to the tune of 115 yards allowed in the Sept. 21 win over Kansas State. A healthier QB should help ISU.
(Slight) Advantage: Iowa State.
Iowa State Pass Offense vs. Texas Pass Defense
ISU QB Sam Richardson's remained solid in the passing game while dealing with a sprained ankle, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for an average of 252.3 yards and seven touchdowns. The Longhorns produce mostly pressure (22 hurries) not sacks (eight) and feature top-flight D-backs in Carrington Byndom, Quandre Diggs, Adrian Phillips, Duke Thomas and Mykelle Thompson.
(Slight) Advantage: Texas
Texas Rush Offense vs. Iowa State Rush Defense
Johnathan Gray has emerged as the top playmaker among a bevy of five-star recruits. He rushed for two touchdowns in last year's 33-7 win over ISU and has notched at least 90 yards on the ground in each of the past three games. He ran for a career high 141 yards in the K-State win. ISU allows 177.3 rushing yards rushing per game, but gave up just 86 yards in the win over Tulsa.
Texas Pass Offense vs. Iowa State Pass Defense
So there's a Facebook page called "David Ash (stinks), put in Case McCoy." The page had only 28 likes as of noon Wednesday. Ash is out because of head injuries, so McCoy it is. Clearly, Ash's absence is good news for the Cyclones' defense. In two starts (and lopsided wins) against ISU, he completed 75 percent (33-44) of his passes and threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions.
(Slight) Advantage: Iowa State
Cyclone kicker Cole Netten made just one of his three field goal attempts at Tulsa, but his misses came from 46 and 49 yards. He and Edwin Arceo are a combined 3 of 7 on field goals this season but all the misses have been from at least 46 yards out. Kirby Van Der Kamp is Kirby Van Der Kamp, which is to say possibly game-changing. So is UT's Anthony Fera (in punts and kicks).
(Slight) Advantage: Iowa State
It's the second straight year in which Texas has lost an iconic figure in the days leading up to playing ISU. Last season, legendary coach Darrell Royal passed away. Monday, the school confirmed former quarter James Street a star in Royal's wishbone offense had recently died. Sad news for all, but news that sometimes buoys players for a traditional power such as Texas to greater success, even if the icons who died came from a previous era. Non-weekend spotlight games have been good OK, great for ISU, though. The obvious crown jewel of such games came on Friday, Nov. 18, 2011 against national championship contender Oklahoma State. Bad weather some sprinkles, scattered storms possible also can favor the home team. The Cyclones have lost four straight home games, which seems like an eternity and sort-of is. Jake Knott famously played one last game in the last win at Jack Trice Stadium.
Advantage: Iowa State
Iowa State will win if ... Richardson pushes that health meter needle from 90 percent upwards of 95 and can make some quick moves in the running game. If he's healthy, the playbook and options expand. The defense must bait Case McCoy into some ill-advised throws. Last week, the Cyclones could have had four interceptions. Need a couple tonight.
Texas will win if ... Case McCoy doesn't need to pass much and the defense looks like it did against K-State, not BYU and Ole Miss. In the Longhorns' last visit to Ames (a 37-14 win), Ash threw just 13 times, completing seven. A strong dose of Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron on the ground could spell trouble for ISU's fast, but in some cases, undersized defenders.
Prediction: Iowa State 28, Texas 27
Three things to watch
Givers and takers:
Both teams are plus-1.3 per game in turnover margin, though ISU is percentage points down the line better to rank 12th nationally in the category. Texas is tied for 13th. Neither team is top 25 in turnovers gained, though (Longhorns tied, 29th; ISU tied, 64th). Something will give in the takeaway portion of the turnover equation.
Iowa State's O-line:
If Sam Richardson's to remain in healing mode, the offensive line needs Tom Farniok to continue to mend at center. Third-stringer Ben Loth's been solid, but the offense looked different (better) with Farniok on the field vs. Tulsa. Daniel Burton, Brock Dagel and Oni Omoile continue to improve. A big game is needed from senior Ethan Tuftee.
Texas' top receivers, Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis (questionable) and Kendall Sanders all are deep-ball threats, but whether they'll be called upon much is in question. Quarterback Case McCoy mostly throws safe passes, which has helped him craft a career 14-to-7 touchdown to interception ratio. He won't air it out unless he has to, so watch out for yards after catch.