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2020 Season

Preview: Texas, Iowa State Battle For Title Spot In Austin

With a trip to Arlington on the line, who comes away with the post-Thanksgiving victory?

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Getty Images - David Purdy

The Cyclones and the Longhorns will both look to avoid any kind of sluggishness on the day after Thanksgiving as they take on each other in a game with championship implications. Iowa State looks like they’re playing their best football of the season, having just decimated long time rival Kansas State 45-0 in Ames. The Cyclones are experiencing a historic run this year, as they haven’t won a conference championship in over 100 years, but are on pace to do so.

At 6-2, No. 13 Iowa State stands as the only Big 12 team with only one conference loss. Beating Texas would guarantee the Cyclones a spot in the 2020 Big 12 Championship, a game that the Cyclones have never played in. With a berth in the Big 12 title game, Iowa State would make 2020 a truly historic season.

There seems to always be pressure on the head coach in Austin, and this season is no different. Texas began Big 12 play 1-2 in a year where they had their eye on a championship run. The Longhorns still have a shot at a trophy, but they’ve looked less than impressive in their victories this season, owning only one conference win by more than a possession. 

Rumors abound that anything short of a trip to Arlington will make this Tom Herman’s last year at Texas. A home win against the Cyclones would put Texas in great position for a title shot. A loss would make the future a lot murkier for the Longhorns.

Game Details

  • When: Fri, Nov 27, 11:00 AM CT
  • Where: Royal Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX
  • Forecast: High 60s, Showers
  • TV:  ABC
  • Betting Line: UT -1.0 O/U 57

No. 13 Iowa State Cyclones (6-2)

It’s impossible to talk about Iowa State without discussing sophomore Breece Hall, who has 1,169 yards through only eight games. Hall has the look of a Doak Walker Award winner, and has been the best running back in the Big 12 this year. He runs behind an offensive line that’s been solid this season, giving up only eight sacks in league play, better than any other Big 12 squad.

Quarterback Brock Purdy has not been having the season he’d hoped for as a sophomore, but he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12. The junior has 13 touchdowns in 2020, and he’s completing 63.7 percent of his passes. He’ll look to get the ball to the best trio of tight ends in the country, with Chase Allen, Charlie Kolar, and Dylan Soehner.

The defense for the Cylcones is holding opponents to 23.4 points per game, making them one of the top units in the conference. Look for plays to be made by linebacker Mike Rose, one of the best at his position there, and the stout Cyclones defensive line.

Iowa State Keys To The Game

Avoid Turnovers  – Iowa State has lost 11 turnovers on the year, and that’s something they’ll want to avoid in Austin. If they’re able to take care of the ball, the Cyclones should be able to implement the type of game plan that they want .

Contain Ehlinger – Pay attention to how well Iowa State can contain Ehlinger on the ground. The senior is likely to try and get outside the pocket or get loose on designed runs.  Those plays help Texas move the ball, and the Cyclones will need to slow those down.


No. 17 Texas Longhorns (5-2)

Offensive production has dipped since the season began for Texas, yet they are averaging 40.4 points per game in 2020. The Longhorns’ success is largely dependent on the play of senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who’s responsible for 29 touchdowns for Texas this season, leading the Big 12 in that category. Texas’s offensive identity is centered around Ehlinger, who distributes the ball out to a committee of receivers. He’s also the team’s leading rusher, although look for freshman Bijan Robinson, who’s impressed in limited action.

Texas’ defense has been  the weaker unit on this team in 2020, with the pass defense close to the bottom of the Big 12. Defending the run, with players like defensive end Joseph Ossai, has become something that the Longhorns can hang their hat on, however, as they’re holding teams to 119 yards per game on the ground.

Texas Keys To The Game

Vary The Run Game – The Longhorns have had and can continue to have success by varying up their run schemes and how they decide to run the ball. Going on the ground against the Iowa State won’t be easy, but the Longhorns can’t get away from the run game if they want to win this game today.

Cover The Tight Ends – Texas will be looking to contain and slow Breece Hall first and foremost. Outside of that, watch how well the Texas secondary can hold up against the Iowa State tight ends, especially on second and third down. The Longhorns will need to be able to cover and tackle those big targets to get the Cyclones off the field.

Prediction

Iowa State has looked like the better team to this point in the season, and most of the statistics that you look at will speak to that. The Cyclones have looked like one of the best teams in the Big 12 these past couple of months, with Breece Hall having the best breakout season of any player in the conference. A good defense and a Doak Walker-caliber running back make a sound formula for winning a championship.

Against my better instincts, though, I will take Texas to cover in this contest. I think that the extra time off that the Longhorns have had will play a factor; if this game was in Ames, moreover, I would probably be leaning towards Iowa State. These teams are not so far apart, however, that those things won’t factor in, and I’ll lean towards Texas in this one.

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