Texas will travel to Ames, Iowa, this week to face a renewed Iowa State football team coming off its first win of the season, a 38-21 victory against Tulsa last Thursday. The Cyclones improved to 1-2 after losing two in-state battles to Northern Iowa and Iowa by a combined total of 14 points. Paul Rhoads’ team is set to open conference play with a home game against Texas on Thursday night — a rarity for the Longhorns apart from Thanksgiving Day.
Since 2010, Rhoads and his team have lost two of three games against the Longhorns with their only win coming on the road in Austin. In the victory over Tulsa, Cyclone sophomore quarterback, Sam Richardson, completed 26 of 41 passes for 255 yards and two scores while Aaron Wimberly had a breakthrough performance with 137 yards rushing on 19 carries. With both teams’ quarterbacks recovering from recent injuries — Ash exacerbated an earlier concussion and Richardson is nursing a sprained right ankle — both sophomore running back Johnathan Gray and Wimberly could see more carries Thursday in an attempt to relieve pressure on the passing game and open up the field. Here is how the teams stack up on both sides of the ball:
Texas ranks fifth in ESPN’s Big 12 power rankings while Iowa State stands ninth, just ahead of Kansas who has only accounted for a mere seven touchdowns through three games. Quarterback David Ash, listed as day-to-day with a head injury, is third in the Big 12 in total offense, Richardson seventh. Gray ranks third in rushing offense. The good news for Rhoads’ squad is that the Cyclones lead the conference in red zone offense, converting seven touchdowns on a perfect 9-9 passing.
Coming into this week’s matchup, the Cyclones maintain an edge over Texas in scoring and rushing defense as well as total defense, three categories in which the Longhorns ranked last in the Big 12 through Saturday. Iowa State is limiting opponents to 77.8 percent scoring from 20 yards out while the Longhorns have allowed 14 touchdowns in four contests, with opponents averaging 28 points per game. The good news for the Longhorns is that a flawless defensive display may not be necessary given the relative weakness of the Cyclone receivers.
Thursday’s game will set the tone for both teams moving forward in the Big 12 competition. Texas’ conference title aspirations could hinge on whether it arrives in Ames ready to play, lest it prefers a repeat of the Brigham Young University game in which the Cougars scorched the Longhorn defense for record yardage.