Texas wins if
The Longhorn defense has been incredibly polarizing through three games. They allowed 51 points against Maryland in Week One, then proceeded to shut out San Jose State the next week.
In the first quarter against USC in Week Three, the Texas defensive unit stuffed Trojan junior running back Ronald Jones II at the one-yard line to force a turnover on downs. Jones later scorched them on a 56-yard reception for a touchdown to close out the first half.
The Longhorns win this game if the defense can stay consistent. Thanks to junior defensive backs Holton Hill and Deshon Elliott, Texas is tied with Duke and Florida for most interceptions returned for a score. The Longhorns have picked off at least one pass in every game this year.
However, Texas’ defensive line has had issues getting into the backfield. It has registered five sacks this year, tied for seventh in the Big 12, and averages 190.7 rushing yards allowed per game.
The Iowa State offense runs a fairly balanced attack and has capable playmaker to hurt the Longhorns. Texas must tighten up on defense and stay aggressive throughout the entire game.
Texas loses if
During the second quarter of the game against USC, the Longhorns lined up with junior Jerrod Heard and ran a designed quarterback run to the left. Heard only picked up one yard, but the play had a major impact on Texas’ season.
All-American senior left tackle Connor Williams laid face down on the turf and was taken out during the second quarter of the game. His absence was felt immediately. The Longhorn offensive line allowed three consecutive sacks to close out its final drive of the first half.
After the game, it was announced Williams suffered a torn meniscus, as well as a PCL and MCL sprain. The team has not set a timetable for his return.
The Longhorns lose this game if they cannot find a suitable stopgap to make up for the loss of Williams. There’s no replacing a talent like Williams, however that may not be necessary for Texas to succeed.
Once Williams went down, head coach Tom Herman moved senior starting right tackle Tristan Nickelson to the left side and brought in sophomore Denzel Okafor.
The Longhorn offense somewhat stabilized after halftime. Through the second half and both overtimes, Texas gained 227 total yards and scored 14 points.
The Cyclones don’t have an elite pass rush with just eight sacks on the season — fifth in the Big 12. The orange and white offense needs the offensive line to keep its quarterback (whoever it ends up being) upright and occasionally buy him some time. Otherwise, Texas could be in trouble for the next couple of games.