Too Much Info in the 'Yellow Pages'?

Texas is looking for its first Big 12 win this season, but it will have to come during the team's first true conference road game as it faces the Iowa State Chiziks, make that the Cyclones. But the storyline this week is the extent to which former Longhorn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik's familiarity with the Horns will factor into Saturday's contest.

"He's been around everything we did for the past two years," NT Derek Lokey said. "He's got a lot of knowledge of what we do."

Chizik's hands-on experience with the Horns, in all probability, is contained in the 'yellow pages', according to UT offensive coordinator Greg Davis. No, this is not the kind of 'yellow pages' you would find in the back of phone book, but rather the writing tablets upon which coaches dissect and draw up plays. And Davis has spent countless hours brainstorming with Chizik and then jotting their collective strategies onto notebook paper.

"We had many hours of 'yellow pages' where we talked about what gives us trouble," Davis said. "Obviously, he kept his 'yellow pages'. And I've kept mine."

Therein lies the great equalizer (if one is actually needed in a game where Texas is heavily favored). Chizik is certainly familiar with Longhorn personnel, while both coaches are cognizant of each other's schemes and tendencies. Texas coach Mack Brown has never faced a head coach who was, at one time, his former assistant. But he has squared off a couple of times against his brother, Watson Brown.

"The tendency I have is to think about what he thought we would do," Brown said, "and then try to change everything so he wouldn't know what we were doing. If you're not careful, you can screw it up. I think we put too much into familiarity because the team that plays the best that day is going to win."

The one element where familiarity may breed contempt has to do with snap counts and checks at line of scrimmage.

"Those are the in-house things that are big," Brown said. "Signals, and things like that, will be different this week."

Chizik, of course, accepted the ISU job the Monday following Texas' loss to Texas A&M. It prompted spirited debate about whether Chizik's focus was more on the job opening than on his game plan. Brown continues to insist Chizik handled the situaton well. Curent Longhorn coaches and players continue to speak highly of Chizik, once considered the hottest rental property in Austin. But that will change Saturday, at what is expected to be a cool and breezy Saturday morning at Jack Trice Stadium.

"I've got a lot of respect for (Chizik)," Lokey said, "but this week he's the opponent."

Fifth-year senior QB Bret Meyer has been hooking up with senior WR Todd Blythe for at least 25 years now.

It's a slight exaggeration, of course, but it's hard to recall a time when Meyer (42 career starts) wasn't looking to his big target (Blythe is listed at 6-5, 214) to move the sticks. Meyer is second among active NCAA signal-callers in total offense (9,466 yards). He passed Vince Young's 9,176 career yards on September 29 to move into third place on the Big 12's all-time total offense list.

"Bret is an athletic quarterback who can throw and make plays," Mack Brown said. "He can make the off-schedule play as well as anybody in the country."

Meyer's 1,711 career plays make him college football's most experienced QB (Hawai'i QB Colt Brennan is a distant second with 1,497 career snaps). This season, Meyer has averaged 247.8 yards of total offense per game (213.1 yards passing, 34.7 rushing). He has completed 127-of-205 passes (62.0 percent) for 1,279 yards in 2007.

"He has a high efficiency rating and a very good completion ratio," said defensive coordinator Duane Akina, "but his legs still give him a chance to make plays. You can do it exactly right and his feet can still get him out of a negative play and make it a positive play."

It's a polite way of saying that Meyer is often running for his life. He's been sacked 114 times during his career but is considered remarkably durable because he's never been injured. He's also thrown eight INTs this season against just five TDs in six games.

Blythe is the school record-holder in receiving yards (2,736) and touchdown catches (29). His career average of 17.5 ypc is second among NCAA active leaders with at least 100 receptions.

"Todd can really fly and he's so tall," Brown added. "He's a mismatch, especially with our shorter secondary."

Yet, despite his high watermarks, there is a prevailing sense that Blythe has been underutilized in his collegiate career, given ISU's propensity toward ball-control.

"They have a controlled offense where they work the clock," Akina said. "Yet, they have the potential with the big receiver to make big gains."

'Potential' is the operative word. Other than Blythe and Meyer, ISU returned only two offensive starters (TE Ben Barkema, OL Tom Schmeling) from a 4-8 team. The Cyclones have been hard-pressed to replace RB Stevie Hicks. Three different RBs have earned at least one start during a disappointing season in which ISU's sole win was a 15-13 victory against in-state rival Iowa. The starting nod has gone to junior Jason Scales (5-9, 212) who has rushed for 197 yards on 53 totes in losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech.

The offensive front is littered with freshmen and sophomores, including a pair of freshmen at RT (starter Ben Lamaak was actually a high shcool QB).

All told, ISU ranks last in the Big 12 in both scoring offense (18.5 ppg, NCAA No. 109) and total offense (350.6 ypg, No. 84). In the first six weeks, 17 ISU turnovers has led to 65 points by opponents. ISU ranks last in the Big 12 (104th nationally) in turnover margin.

Texas coaches report that the Horns QB Colt McCoy's devotion to studying game film is comparable only to former QB Major Applewhite. This is McCoy's assessment of ISU's defense under Chizik: "When I watched their film it was like watching spring practice from last year."

So, now Texas fans generally know what to expect: a defense that sells out to stop the run, hoping to create turnovers with well-timed blitzes. The only schematic change that is appreciably different from the defense Chizik fielded at Texas is that the Cyclones secondary is showing more Cover 2. Two of ISU's six returning starters are DBs. Junior RCB Chris Singleton is the smallest member of the secondary (5-10, 194) but he leads the team with four INTs this season. But the Cyclone pass defense is borderline awful and, at best, mediocre, surrendering 226.2 ypg (NCAA No. 61). The unit is at the bottom of the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense. The fact that starting SS Caleb Berg missed the first four games of the season had something to do with it.

Two of ISU's returning six defenses starters are linebackers, arguably the strength of a unit that yields 346.3 ypg (NCAA No. 44). Senior WLB Alvin 'Acie' Bowen led the nation in tackles last season by averaging 12.6 stops per game. He notched 15 tackles and a FF against Texas Tech. He leads the team with 54 tackles this season, including 6.5 TFL and one INT. SLB Jon Banks is slated to make his 19th start against Texas. The former SS ranks third on the team with 34 tackles.

The anchors of the defensive front are are senior NG Athyba Rubin (6-3, 320) who has logged 15 career starts and DT Bryce Braaksma (13 career starts).

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