Things tend to get crazy when college football games are played on weeknights in Ames, Iowa. Texas knows all about that, having been on the fortunate side of wild finish to a Thursday night game against the Cyclones back in 2013.
This time around, the Longhorns might need some more funny bounces to go their way. Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell has his team on the upswing, while Tom Herman’s squad is still feeling things out. With both teams coming off of a bye this Big 12 opener could set the tone for each moving forward.
Texas at Iowa State
Kickoff: Thursday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Texas -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Texas quarterback situation
In a familiar story around Austin, Tom Herman and his staff might have a QB controversy on their hands. With starter Shane Buechele sidelined, freshman Sam Ehlinger nearly led UT to an upset of USC two weeks ago. Naturally, the rookie’s heroics prompted speculation he’d take over as QB1.
Buechele will likely assume the position atop the depth chart when healthy, but it’s easy to wonder how long of a leash Herman will give him.
2. Park’s place
The historically moribund Cyclones have shown plenty of life with junior QB Jacob Park at the helm. Through three games, he’s averaging more than eight yards per pass and has collected eight touchdowns against just two interceptions.
Park has reliable receiving targets in senior Allen Lazard and sophomore Hakeem Butler, who have both caught three TDs already this year. They won’t test Texas’ secondary to the same degree that the Trojans did, but the Longhorns still can’t afford to ease up.
3. Leveraging the bye week
Both teams had last week off. Does the bye favor one team or the other?
Given that Herman is still so early in his tenure at Texas, it shouldn’t be surprising if his team shows more improvement with the benefit of the extra preparation time.
Iowa State is a solid, but not spectacular, team with enough offensive weapons to keep opponents on their toes and a defense that has struggled to stop the pass so far this year.
Through three weeks, Texas has been a big ball of volatility – snapping off big plays one minute, shooting itself in the foot the next.
In other words, anyone who claims to have a firm grasp on what is going to happen here is lying. If there is one mismatch between the two teams, it could be Texas’ receiving corps against the ISU secondary. That might be enough to help the Longhorns start off Big 12 play with a road win.
Prediction: Texas 38, Iowa State 31
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.