Texas Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Iowa State
The No. 17 Texas Longhorns (7-2, 4-2) may have the least impressive resume of the top 7-2 teams in the country, but they have plenty to play for with three games left in the season.
At 5-4 (2-4 in the Big 12), the Iowa State Cyclones will be in Austin for the first Big 12 game ever to be broadcast on the lucrative Longhorn Network. With bowl eligibility on the line for ISU, there is the added incentive to leave Austin with the upset.
The Cyclones have been able to push Texas in the past, but the Longhorns have a lot of momentum after snatching an upset of their own against Texas Tech and could be sharpening things up for a late-season hurrah. With the Texas program losing one of its iconic figures in Darrell K. Royal, the added emotions could be an advantage or a hindrance.
Still, the Longhorns will have to show up.
Here are five keys to the matchup with ISU.
Control Steele Jantz
The Longhorns have faced a bevy of talented quarterbacks, and the Big 12 does offer some of the best.
Iowa State's quarterback Steele Jantz is a dual-threat that has the tools to open up the Texas defense. The Longhorns front four will have to put up a great effort to keep Jantz off balance and control the movement of the Cyclones' offense.
Texas is coming off a solid outing defensively against a stout Texas Tech offense, so the stage is set for another strong performance.
Meanwhile, Jantz has been quite two-faced for the Cyclones. When he has played well, ISU has had success. Conversely, his poorer games have coincided with the losses.
Test Iowa State's Pass Defense
The Cyclones field the 190th-ranked pass defense, and the Longhorns boast one of the top producers in yards per catch in junior receiver Mike Davis.
With 165 receiving yards against the Red Raiders, Davis set a career high for the second time this season. The mismatch is all over the wall, but Texas will have to execute down the field.
Davis is a key to opening up the rest of the Texas offense, as ISU will be forced into double coverages exploiting both their secondary and front seven.
Run It Early and Often
Even with Mike Davis' recent jump in production, the Longhorns field a stronger running game that has been solid without Malcolm Brown (out with a high-ankle sprain).
Johnathan Gray put in his second straight 100-yard performance and looks better every week.
Joe Bergeron has slid into a more purposeful role as a bruiser rather than as a featured back, given the big picture at the position.
And with Brown's availability becoming likelier by the week, look for the Texas ground game to shift into high gear this Saturday.
With the bigger picture coming into sharper focus in the final stretch, discipline from here on out is paramount.
Texas was flagged for eight penalties amounting to 64 yards against the Red Raiders, so the expectation Saturday is to play a cleanly executed game.
Avoiding the penalties that extend drives is a big key in holding the Cyclones to minimum offensive production.
At 7-2, the Longhorns have much more to play for in terms of relevance, and with the upcoming matchups with TCU and No. 2 Kansas State, the need for confidence, momentum and good execution is impeccably necessary.
Feed from the Crowd
With a jam-packed Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium filled with fans looking to celebrate the life of the man whom the venue honors, the Longhorns will have an opportunity to ride that energy early on.
A lull in the stands is no huge threat to Texas' chances at winning the game, but the atmosphere of a raucous crowd plays very well into the Longhorns' advantage.
Additionally, former Texas greats Colt McCoy and Phil Dawson will be in attendance as honorary captains, so the crowd will have plenty to cheer for as the Longhorns take the field.