Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- Last August, Texas' first Big 12 Conference road trip looked like a trapdoor game. Back then, the thought was Texas would be coming off two emotionally draining wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma. The Horns would face the Big 12's most experienced QB-WR combination plus former Longhorn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, now on the Cyclone sideline. Back in the day, this had the makings of a game coming down to a last second Texas FG (a la Kris Stockton in 1998); albeit against an outmanned opponent and its first-year coach looking for a signature win. But given Texas' 0-2 start in league play, my thought (driving back from Dallas) is that Texas would absolutely unload on ISU.
Monday, however, Texas learned that SE Limas Sweed's Longhorn tenure was done with his season-ending wrist surgery. It was just the latest in a series of unfortunate events suggesting that this may be one of those snakebit, bad karma years that Mack Brown has been able to avoid during his first decade in Austin. Then again, any team that still boasts the likes of Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley, Jermichael Finley, Nate Jones and Billy Pittman still retains its vertical threat. The Horns should be favored each Saturday the remainder of the regular season and have an excellent shot of still playing on New Years Day (Cotton Bowl).
We will know something about this team's destiny the next two weekends, even against a couple of Big 12 cellar-dwellers. If Texas shows the heart in Ames that it did against OU (or even Rice, for that matter), and duplicates that effort in Waco, then we can dare to believe that the two-week spiral had more of a galvanizing than a demoralizing effect on this year's team. However, if Texas wins ugly like it did against Arkansas State or Central Florida, then we're probably looking at an 8-4 or 7-5 regular season.
The Horns face college football's most experienced QB in Bret Meyer, while 6-5 receiver Todd Blythe will make Texas' undersized CBs look like Oompa-Loompas in shoulder pads. That combo should be good for a score or two (with the emphases on should. Meyer has thrown just five TD passes in six games this season). The Cyclones rank dead last in the Big 12 in scoring offense and total offense.
Texas clearly out-talents ISU across the board. As long as the Horns didn't leave their heart in Dallas, Texas wins by nearly three TDs.
QB Colt McCoy said watching Cyclone game film was like watching Gene Chizik's practice tapes during his two-year stint at the Forty Acres. In that case, ISU's defense will be vulnerable to big plays. Even without Sweed, Texas has enough playmakers to pop the big one against the Big 12's worst pass defense. Texas 37, Iowa State 16.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- Gene Chizik's familiarity with Texas has been raised again and again by both the Texas coaching staff and those covering the game. But it's not receiving attention because it's actually going to have a massive impact on the outcome, it's simply the most interesting aspect of what will end up being a lopsided contest.
Yes, consistency has not exactly been a quality of the 2007 Longhorns. Yes, the Longhorns struggled to victories over Arkansas State and Central Florida, two opponents whom Texas was expected to easily handle. Yes, this has been the craziest year in college football.
It won't matter. This is an Iowa State team whose only win is over their perennially disappointing rival Iowa in a game where the Cyclones didn't even score a touchdown.
Iowa State is signature Chizik: hard-nosed, blitz-heavy and terrible against the pass. The Horns will light it up against the Whirly Birds in Ames and cruise to a much-needed conference victory. Texas 38, Iowa State 16.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor -- Mack Brown returns to the place where he was an assistant coach from 1980 until 1982, and he'll face Gene Chizik, his former defensive coordinator who is now Iowa State's top dog. Iowa State is 1-5, but if you think the Cyclones couldn't possibly defeat Texas, you must not be paying attention to college football this season.
Texas will win the game by a couple of touchdowns but it will be a closer game than the score will indicate. Yes, the Longhorns under Brown bounce back well from losses to Oklahoma, but I just have a weird feeling about this one, much like the strange thoughts I had prior to last year's Kansas State game. Of course, I picked Texas to beat Kansas State last year, too, and we all know how that went.
Several weird factors come into play this week. One, the Longhorns will be rising at 6:15 on Saturday morning prior to the 11:30 a.m. kickoff, the earliest game they've played this year. Texas will also change signals for this game, in case Chizik has a notion to steal signs. It'll be colder than normal, and it's naïve to think playing Iowa State in Iowa will not be a letdown after the passionate, hard-hitting game against Oklahoma last week in the Cotton Bowl.
For whatever reason, I feel like Texas is a big, tired cat right now, toying with the energetic mouse. The Cyclones aren't good enough to win the game (are they?) but they can bite and scratch and irritate if you're not fully prepared. The Longhorns are saying all the right things about avoiding a letdown and "any given Saturday" and those types of things, but it's just unrealistic to think they will run onto the field with their hair on fire. It just won't happen.
Having said that, if the Longhorns ARE ready and eager and hungry to spit the taste of the Oklahoma game from their mouths, don't be surprised if they win this game 42-14. I just don't see that happening.
One person who should have a big game for Texas is Jamaal Charles, who pretty much blamed himself for last week's loss. He'll be ready, and he'll be able to make some big plays and rush for 150 yards. The Cyclones' defense will prove to be the perfect remedy for a case of the miserables. John Chiles will also be hungry, and could introduce himself in an electric way against the Cyclones.
Yes, Iowa State has Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe, but the Cyclones have had that pair for about 10 years and they will not be enough to overcome Texas' talent and depth. But don't think for a minute that those two haven't laid in bed at night this week and thought about what it would feel like to watch the goal posts come down mid-afternoon on Saturday. They could wash away four years of losing if they could put together just one 60-minute window of perfection against the Longhorns. If that happens, they won't be the guys who lost to Toledo; they'll be the guys who beat Texas.
But if the Cyclones can't beat Northern Iowa or Toledo, it makes no sense to believe they will beat Texas. Yet unexplainably, I'm still uneasy.
The Horns will win – I think. Texas 28, Iowa State 14.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher -- This one looks on paper like it should be a Texas blowout, but I won't be surprised to see the Horns struggle, at least early. On a cloudy, chilly day in a hostile stadium, against a team whose coach knows the Horns inside and out, Texas will be challenged to rebound from two straight conference losses and find meaning in a season that is teetering on the brink of disaster.
Texas played good football in spots against Oklahoma, and the Horns at least showed that they can slug it out with a very good football team. But they still managed to lose, and are now fighting for pride and whatever kind of bowl game they can scare up. They are not out of the conference race mathematically, of course, but they will be if they come out uninspired Saturday and play like the season is already over.
Iowa State is not very good, but they have a dangerous quarterback in Bret Meyer and a big receiver in Todd Blythe who will present matchup problems for Texas. If Texas turns the ball over and gives up big plays in the kicking game, like it has the last two weeks, the Cyclones could make a game of it, get the fans involved, and start believing they can pull the season-making upset. Why are visions of goalposts being torn down dancing in my head?
But enough with the pessimism. The Horns will throw the ball all over the place Saturday and will get some breathing room by late in the third quarter. One thing I will be watching for – who will replace Limas Sweed as Texas' deep threat? With a rotation of Billy Pittman, Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley, and Nate Jones at receiver, it doesn't appear Texas has a burner who can stretch the field. Might redshirt frosh Montre Webber or Phillip Payne start to figure into the rotation? Or will Greg Davis be content to rely on the catch and run capabilities of Jermichael Finley and the other receivers? We shall see. Texas 34, Iowa State 17.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher – This game to me shapes up a lot like the TCU game in week two. At the time, we thought more highly of the Horned Frogs than we should have, given the way they've played since, while Iowa State is currently considered one of the worst teams in the country, but like TCU, Gene Chizik's ‘Clones are a respectable defense (against the run; surprise, surprise) and an inept offense.
As we saw in the first half against the Frogs, this Texas team is capable of playing down to – actually below – that level. So despite ISU's deserved rep as a bad team, this is not another Rice game, where Colt McCoy could pull a Tony Romo-in-Buffalo impression and still pull out a win.
Texas will need to play well to win this game.
Last week was encouraging in the sense that, for the first time this season, the Texas team played with fire for four quarters and Greg Davis called a game above a JV level coach. The question is, will both those aspects again be evident in Ames?
If so, Texas will play well, and will win handily. But with two losses already in Big 12 play, the Horns' season goals are essentially crushed, so there's the concern that the fire we saw last week when there was substantially more to play for will fade now that they're playing for little but pride. As for Davis, who knows what he'll do. He's obviously capable of calling a gameplan that keeps a defense off-balance, even a defense schemed by Chizik (who has a pretty intimate knowledge of Davis', um, tendencies), but will he this week?
I just don't know the answers to those questions, which I believe will determine whether this is a four-quarter nail-biter or a comfortable Longhorn win. This team's lack of consistency in all areas has made picking games this season harder than at any time I remember in Mack Brown's tenure. Perhaps they'll play a solid game this weekend, which will make it two in a row, the start of a trend. Let's go with that. Texas 38, Iowa State 17.
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 37, Iowa State 16