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Big Stakes in Austin as Texas Hosts Iowa State

Both the Longhorns and the Cyclones are looking to turn their season around.

Getty Images - David Purdy

Before last year’s Texas-Iowa State game, if you had told someone that next year’s game would be a game for revenge and redemption, they would have assumed you were talking about Iowa State, right? Texas had beaten Oklahoma and seemingly had the ship back on course as it came into Ames, Iowa. The Cyclones were nothing but another stepping stone on the way back to respectability for the Longhorns.

A year or so later, following a surprising 24-0 (yes ZERO) Cyclone win last year, it is Texas that has revenge and redemption in mind. Once again, the Longhorns are trying to steer the ship away from the sand bar. Though, some will tell you the ship has already sunk. Just don’t tell the Longhorn players that. They fully believe in head coach Charlie Strong and are determined to right the ship for the remainder of the season.

Iowa State, for its part, is coming off two close losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State, and feels it is getting closer to getting its program on track to compete in the Big 12. In the sink or swim world of college football, Iowa State is treading water and could go either way. A victory would provide much-needed momentum and confidence, while another loss could start a back slide into another miserable season.

Date/Time: Saturday October 15, 2016  6:00 pm Central
Where: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium
Forecast: Mostly Sunny 89 degrees 20% chance of showers
TV: Longhorn Network
Betting Line: Texas -14,  O/U 70

Iowa State Cyclones (1-5) 

Despite Iowa State’s current record, the last two weeks have brought a ray of hope that their fortunes may be on the upswing. Hope comes in a shapes and sizes, right? When you have been down as long and as far as the Cyclones, the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t have to be big and bright. Just as long as there is a light, there is hope.

The last two weeks have seen the Cyclones blow leads against both Baylor and Oklahoma State in close losses. Iowa State led Baylor by 14 points for most of the game before finally succumbing 45-42 on a late Baylor field goal.

Last week, Iowa State led the Oklahoma State Cowboys 31-21 entering the fourth quarter on the road in Stillwater. A 17-point fourth quarter resulted in a 38-31 win for the Cowboys and another blown opportunity for the Cyclones. However, once again the light flickered at the end of the tunnel. Is this the week the Cyclones finally put it all together and get to the end of the tunnel, step into the light and throw more shade on the Longhorns tumultuous season?

Keys To The Game for Iowa State

Get the Ball to Lazard –   If the Texas defense has shown anything this year, it’s that it is susceptible to the big play. Junior wide receiver Allen Lazard is the Cyclone’s big play threat with 27 receptions for 383 yards and four touchdowns. Although is 14.19 yard average per reception is third on the team of players with at least 10 receptions, there is no doubt that he is the go to guy when a big play is needed.  Freshman Deshaunte Jones also provides home-run ability with 12 receptions for 204 yards, a 17.1 average and three touchdowns.

Avoid Mistakes – It’s a cliché, but interceptions, fumbles and missed tackles have plagued the team and have played big roles in their losses. The Cyclones have lost three of their games by a combined total of 15 points, with the last two included. A late third quarter fumble was the turning point in the loss to Oklahoma State. The team is -4 in turnover margin and for a team trying to learn to win, mistakes can be difficult to overcome.

Close The Deal – The Iowa State offense is averaging 39 points and 472 yards over its last three games and has given them big leads only to see them fade at the end. This could be depth, which would be plausible for a team seeking to turn its program around, but head coach Matt Campbell isn’t using it as an excuse. Rather he says his team must find a way to make plays to win, not find ways to lose. Close losses can lead to frustration but Campbell says he and his team are “ticked off” and are determined to find ways to close out victories.

Texas Longhorns (2-3) 

This season seems like same story, different verse for Charlie Strong and the Longhorns. Once again, Strong finds himself needing to run off a string of wins to potentially save his job. Last week’s loss to rival Oklahoma, which never goes over well in Austin, was not totally unexpected before the season, but giving up 672 yards in offense and 45 points had boosters foaming at the mouth this week.

Now enter a game against a team that embarrassed the Longhorns last year. No game is pointed to more by those who deem Strong unworthy of his job than last years 24-0 loss to the Cyclones. A loss again, at home, to a team  which the Longhorns should seemingly beat easily and there will be riots on the Forty.

Keys To The Game for Texas

Diversify The Pass Game – The Longhorn pass offense seemed to contain two plays last week against Oklahoma. The wide receiver screen which was mediocre at best and the downfield throw down the sideline which resulted in touchdowns and took advantage of the Horns size and speed outside. What was missing were the inside slants and quick throws to the inside receivers which teams like Baylor and Texas Tech have used so well in years past in similar offenses. Quarterback Shane Buechele was also frequently late on his throws and missed several other big play opportunities. Adding to the passing game and getting the pass to the receiver on time could turn the Texas offense from a top 25 offense nationally to a top 10 offense.

Give D’Onta The Ball – Running Back D’Onta Foreman continues to perform week in and week out, racking up the tough yards when needed but also big plays for touchdowns. Foreman is second in the nation in yards per game at 148.75. He also has run for seven touchdowns on the year in four games after missing one due to injury. Foreman sets the tome for the Longhorn offense and has been the bell cow since Chris Warren III went down for the season with a knee injury. Give him the ball and stand back.

Just Win Baby – The Longhorns have lost three games in a row and need a win badly to quiet the naysayers. Strong has tried to shield the team from the noise but the players are fully aware of what has been said and have come racing to his defense. Strong has told them to just go out, play the game and have fun. This may be the week that they finally do it as they are back home for the first time in a month. Just don’t forget to win, baby.

Game Prediction 

I don’t think before the season anyone thought this would be such an important game, especially for the Longhorns. There was definitely a desire to get some revenge from last years washout but the way the last three weeks have gone for the Longhorns and the way the defense has played, there is definitely a sense of urgency to play well Saturday and get a win. A loss would have devastating, if not catastrophic, consequences for the program. That is not being overly dramatic either. It is that urgent to get things turned around. The much maligned defense must also play better. It’s not certain another game giving up 500+ yards and 40+ points would suffice to satisfy boosters even in a win for the Longhorns.

Matt Campbell and the Iowa State Cyclones are seeking to prove they belong on the same field with the rest of the Big 12.  After nearly tasting victory the past two weeks, they are equally as anxious for a win to vindicate their recent improvements on the field. Moral victories of leading late and being competitive have only whetted their appetite to get a “W” on the left side of the standings. A two game win streak over the Texas Longhorns and a win in Austin would do wonders for Campbell as he seeks to improve the fortunes in Ames.

After a slow start by the Longhorns and another good beginning by the Cyclones, in the end the Horns finally get back in the win column with a 45-27 victory.

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