But that's why Saturday's home game against Iowa State is touted, by some Texas players, as a litmus test to gauge where the program stands this side of the OU game. A dual-threat QB in Bret Meyer, a seasoned O-line, a downhill runner in I-back Stevie Hicks, a very young defense that has been very stingy on the ground (85 ypg this season): add it up, and that's why some consider Saturday's opponent a poor man's Ohio State. At the very least, the 2-1 Cyclones are respectable enough to where a win would go a long way toward removing the bad taste that has lingered in the mouths of many Longhorns since September 9.
Meyer is mobile, accurate and accounts for 247.3 yards of total offense each game. Yet, Cyclone coaches have played it awfully safe with Meyer. He is completing just under 60 percent of his passes (46-of-77 for 589 yards), but most of his tosses are high-percentage, intermediate routes. ISU goes deep so rarely that they make OC Greg Davis look like a riverboat gambler. Meyer will run about 10 or 12 times per game -- most of these are designed runs: draws, traps, counters, bootlegs -- but his career 1.9 ypc average will not make anyone forget about Vince Young. Texas coaches made ISU's O-line (boasting four big seniors) sound like the offensive front for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but no Big 12 team gave up more sacks (39) than ISU did last year.
The Cyclone defense is still wearing nametags, what with just four returning starters. Senior DT Brent Curvey is a Houston Westfield product who could start this year for every Big 12 team except Texas and Oklahoma. Look for Texas to borrow a page from its North Texas gameplan by running sideline-to-sideline (ISU starting DEs are a true freshman and a former walkon). Cyclone DBs will concede hitches, curls and slants but are geared to stop the long ball. WR Billy Pittman is due, but you get the feeling UT coaches will press the issue this week with 6-5 SE Limas Sweed.
The Texas-ISU series is brief, but competitive. The Horns have won all five matchups by an average victory margin of 13 points. This one could get dicey if the depleted depth at Longhorn linebacker becomes a factor, but it shouldn't against an ISU team that barely slipped past UNLV (16-10) and required three overtimes to beat Toledo (both at home). Besides, Chizik is still fuming. Texas 38, Iowa State 14.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- Iowa State brings experience and tenacity to Austin, but not enough talent and won't be leaving town with a win. The Cyclones are a solid football team, but not nearly good enough to keep Texas out of the endzone early. The Whirly-birds gave up 43 points to Toledo in their 2006 opener. Of course, they also scored 45 and have on the roster the best quarterback in the Big 12 (really not saying a whole lot this year, but still). Their offensive experience and fluidity will keep this game fairly close in the early going, but since the Longhorns will also be scoring points, the Texas coaches won't be afraid to open up the offense and attack down the field against an overmatched ISU defense. Expect the Longhorns to roll, despite the losses on defense they continue to face. We'll likely see a great deal of rotation on the defensive side of the ball, as Texas allows its talent down the depth chart to wear out Iowa State and don't be surprised if Limas Sweed has a big game as the Texas offense becomes more and more fluid each week. Texas 42, Iowa State 17.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor -- Yes, I know, Iowa State has a good run defense. So did Kansas last year, and look what happened to them. And did you hear? The Cyclones almost beat Iowa last week on the road in that big grudge match. And their quarterback is a poor mans Vince Young, and hes a veteran.
Im trying to believe that this will be a competitive game, especially after last weeks pillage of Rice in Houston. And I want this to be a competitive game to soothe the pain that will come with observing next weeks game against Sam Houston State.
But try as I might, the best scenario will be for Iowa State to make this a somewhat competitive game for about a half. I know Iowa States defense is much better than Rices, but I also think Texas wont suffer 19 penalties this week. The Horns scored 52 points last week despite the flag-fest that was Reliant Stadium. Theyll cut way back on the penalties this week and threaten the 50 mark again.
Iowa State will hang around by playing mind-numbingly conservative early and snapping the ball with :01 left on the playclock, and Texas will lead 17-7 at halftime. In the second half, long about 4 p.m., the Texas heat will set in (quick weather update: heat index was 105 Thursday in Austin) in advance of predicted rain on Saturday night, and Texas offensive line will take over.
Defensively, the Longhorns will be plenty motivated after losing their shutout last week. A fresh Tarell Brown will snare an interception and make about 10 tackles, and offensively, one of the Young/Charles duo will gain 100 yards and the other will have 60-something. Limas Sweed will reach the end zone, and so will Jermichael Finley.
As much as I want to believe this will be a close game, I just dont see it. Texas 42, Iowa State 14.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher -- The game with Iowa State should give us a great gauge for where this Texas team really is and what its prospects are for winning the Big 12. After destroying the two patsies on the schedule and losing surprisingly badly to the top team in the country, the Longhorns gets back this week to playing a competitive opponent, one that can test them, particularly on defense.
Man, doesn't it seem like RB Stevie Hicks, QB Bret Meyer and WR Todd Blythe have been at Iowa State since the 'Clones were in the Big 8? Hicks, a senior, and Meyer and Blythe, both redshirt juniors, are the nucleus of an ISU offense that currently is ranked 59th nationally in total offense with an average of 352 yards a game. Hicks is averaging just over 90 yards a game rushing and at 6-2, 212, running behind a huge offensive line, will give Texas' front seven, particularly its relatively under-sized LB corps, all they can handle. If Texas cheats the run, Meyer can go up top to Blythe, who, at 6-5, makes an inviting target.
It was last year against a bad Aggie team, but the way this trio played at Kyle Field in a 42-14 thumping of A&M makes you respect them. Meyer went 20 of 32 for 371 yards and four TDs, Hicks rushed 25 times for 122 yards and two scores, and Blythe wents nuts with eight catches for 214 yards and four touchdowns. So those guys will have fond memories of their last trip to Texas and should come in confident. I am really anxious to see how the Texas defense performs.
As for the Texas offense, well, you have to figure it is going to stay pretty conservative. With Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles both running the ball effectively and the passing game still not having gotten into any kind of flow all season, you have to figure the game is going to pit two ground-gobbling beasts against each other, slugging it out in the trenches. On the other hand, the Cyclone secondary has been porous this year, so Colt McCoy could have some success if he actually looks down field some on Saturday. Question is, will Greg Davis let him?
Texas will win this one, but it going to be closer than the 24 point spread. I'm calling it Texas 31, Iowa State 17.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher -- Texas needs this game. Next week, the Longhorn two-deep would get a better game if they scrimmaged their own third- and fourth-string teammates rather than Sam Houston, so playing Iowa State is truly the last chance before Oct. 7 for the Horns to prepare for the Sooners in a true game situation. And frankly, Texas not only needs the practice but also a win over a team that is at least somewhat legit competition, unlike North Texas and Rice, and I believe the Cyclones meet that standard.
ISU's Dan McCarney is the dean of Big 12 coaches for a reason. His Cyclones are competitive year-in and year-out, and making that happen in Ames, Iowa is akin to what Bill Snyder pulled off in Manhattan, Kansas. This year in particular, Iowa State has the offensive muscle to play close to head-up with the better teams in the nation (see last week's game vs. Iowa), but defense will be this team's undoing against teams like the Hawkeyes and the Horns.
The Texas offense is no juggernaut, but even a game plan like last week's vs. Rice will suffice to deliver enough points to outscore Iowa State. And I actually expect to see a bit more through the air this week from Greg Davis' O. The 'Clones are going to see to that, I believe, by looking to stack the line and stop the Longhorn running game. I don't think that'll consistently work anyway (not with, cross your fingers, the Jamaal Charles of old back), but there are going to be some tantalizing match-ups for Colt McCoy to exploit, and he will. Texas 37, Iowa State 16.
Pat Culpepper, Special to Inside Texas: Texas 28, Iowa State 21.
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 38, Iowa State 14.
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