A closer look at Friday’s Big 12 Conference football game between No. 13 Iowa State (6-2, 6-1) and No. 17 Texas (5-2, 4-2) at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas (11 a.m., ABC).
Iowa State offense
Iowa State has one of the most balanced offenses in its history.
The Cyclones have passed for 1,859 yards and have rushed for 1,642 yards. They have 14 passing touchdowns and 22 rushing touchdowns.
That balance makes it hard to game plan against the Cyclones. And Iowa State uses packages that don’t give away its intent. The Cyclones have no issues throwing the ball out of a three-tight end set.
“On the offensive side of the ball, you have the nation’s leading rusher (Breece Hall), you’ve got Brock Purdy at quarterback and you have NFL Draft picks at tight end,” Texas Coach Tom Herman said. “It’s definitely the best team I’ve seen Iowa State field in a long, long time.”
Iowa State defense
Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock isn’t getting the love he has in years past. It’s not because the defense has fallen off, it’s just that people are used to the fact Iowa State is a good defensive team now.
The Cyclones have given up the third fewest yards in the Big 12 and have given up the third fewest touchdowns.
Compared to last season, Iowa State is giving up 66 fewer yards per game and two fewer points.
“They have great players up front on defense,” Herman said. “Their two-deep of guys up front are very, very difficult to handle. You know about Greg Eisworth and what he’s done in his career and Mike Rose and the season that he’s having. That side of the ball is talented, cohesive and well coached.”
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger is Texas’ offense.
He leads the Longhorns in rushing and has thrown for 1,834 yards and 22 touchdowns.
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Texas has a balanced group of pass catchers for Ehlinger to target. Six Longhorns have at least one touchdown and at least 100 yards receiving, led by sophomore receiver Joshua Moore who has 343 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Well, I think when you turn the videotape on and you watch every one of their position groups run around and the type of talent and team that they have, (it’s) really all you need to do in terms of your awareness of what you’re getting ready to play,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “I think offensively, an elite group of wide receivers (and) in my opinion one of the great leaders at the quarterback position in our conference and competitors and a veteran offensive line.”
It’s no secret Texas gets the pick of the bunch in recruiting. It hasn’t won a Big 12 title since Mack Brown was head coach, but it still reels in four- and five-star recruits at the snap of a finger.
That becomes obvious when you look at the defensive side of the ball. Texas only has three players under 6-foot on its defensive depth chart and all three are defensive backs. Along the defensive line, the shortest player is 6-foot-2 and no one weighs less than 265.
“The thing that stands out right away is elite bodies and elite football players,” Campbell said. “I really feel like they have that at every position group. You look at the defensive line and you’ve got juniors and seniors who all have elite size. You look at the linebacking crew and you see elite length and you see the veteranness and skill in the secondary.”
It’s led by linebacker Joseph Assai, who has a team-leading 45 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
“I think the word is elite,” Campbell said. “He’s an elite football player. He’s got an elite motor and in a lot of ways he has the ability to change the game and you’ve seen it happen almost each and every game.”
Iowa State doesn’t have the individual players Texas has. But like Campbell said earlier in the week, “It’s about a football team. Not a football individual.”
Prediction — Iowa State 31, Texas 30