Longhorns look for revenge against the Big 12-leading Cyclones
The Horns may not be the most hospitable hosts after dropping a 23-21 game versus Iowa State last year in Ames. Additionally, the stakes are higher in this season's matchup: The loser will likely fall out of contention for a spot in the Big 12 title game. The Cyclones currently lead the Big 12 with a 6-1 record with Texas a game and a half back at 4-2.
Which team will see its holiday weekend ruined? Here's what to watch.
No. 13 Iowa State at No. 17 Texas
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 27 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas -1.5
When Iowa State Has the Ball
The Cyclones might play the most physical brand of offense in the Big 12. They frequently play multiple tight ends at the same time to help clear the way for workhorse running back Breece Hall. The sophomore is averaging 6.5 yards per rushing attempt, and he's one of just two backs to clear 1,000 yards on the ground so far this season (UTSA's Sincere McCormick is the other).
Hall probably won't find many easy running lanes against the Longhorns, which are giving up a scant 3.2 yards per carry, 16th-best nationally. Texas has held up well against some of the best running games it has seen this season, allowing 2.6 yards per carry to Oklahoma State and 3.8 to Oklahoma.
ISU offensive coordinator Tom Manning can use his team's bruising ground game to set up opportunities to exploit UT's so-so pass defense, which ranks fifth in the Big 12 in passer rating. The Cyclones will need to set up their protection schemes to account for Joseph Ossai, Texas' premier edge rusher. If they keep Ossai at bay, ISU quarterback Brock Purdy can hunt for favorable matchups in the secondary with tight end Charlie Kolar.
When Texas Has the Ball
The UT offense has a reputation for being a one-man show behind veteran Sam Ehlinger, a do-it-all quarterback. The combination of Ehlinger's rugged running and command in the passing game puts defenses in a bind, forcing them to keep one eye on the backfield and the other down the field.
Recently, however, the Longhorns are letting freshman running back Bijan Robinson shoulder more of the load. The five-star rookie has carried the ball at least 12 times in the last three games. He busted out in UT's last game versus West Virginia, toting the rock 12 times for 113 yards.
The Cyclones want to ensure Ehlinger will face as many obvious passing situations as possible. That makes it crucial that they tighten up on early downs to prevent third-and-short scenarios in which the UT QB can either run or pass.
COVID-19 issues for the Kansas Jayhawks kept Texas from playing last week. That gives head coach Tom Herman and his staff an edge over Iowa State counterpart Matt Campbell and Co. in preparation for this matchup. The Cyclones played sharp football in a 45-0 drubbing of Kansas State last Saturday, so UT could use the help.
Brock Purdy fueled ISU's win in a turnover-free performance. A similar outing on Friday will likely mean the Cyclones go home with a win, so Texas defensive coordinator Chris Ash will look for every opportunity to harass the ISU quarterback. Keep an eye on how UT's other players in the defensive front take advantage of ISU's blocking schemes when accounting for Joseph Ossai.
It also bears mentioning that Herman can't afford to lose this kind of game if he wants to continue coaching at Texas in 2021. Between the coaching staff's desperation, UT's extended layoff, and the emotion of playing what may be Sam Ehlinger's final game in Austin, the intangibles point to an inspired performance from the Longhorns.
Prediction: Texas 28, Iowa State 24
Podcast: Week 13 Preview and Predictions + Interview with Kirk Herbstreit
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.