Coming off a bye that followed their first win in three games, the Texas Longhorns will travel to Iowa State Thursday night seeking to maintain their position in the Big 12 title race. The Longhorns (2-2 overall, 1-0 Big 12) have seen their season unfold differently than imagined, with double-digit losses to BYU and Ole Miss following a season-opening win over New Mexico State. Coach Mack Brown has lowered expectations and pinned the Longhorns' hopes on a conference title run.
The Longhorns will be without starter David Ash, the top returning Big 12 quarterback entering this season, who sustained a concussion in Week 2 against BYU. He was sidelined the following week against Ole Miss and went 14-of-25 for 166 yards and a touchdown in the 31-21 win over Kansas State.
Case McCoy, Ash's replacement, attempted just 12 passes over the first two games before going 24-of-36 for 196 yards and a touchdown in Ash's place against Ole Miss.
The Longhorns will also be without starting right tackle Josh Cochran, who has a shoulder injury. Wide receiver Mike Davis, who leads the team in touchdown catches, is a game-time decision.
Iowa State (1-2 overall, 0-0 Big 12) will be focused on stopping Texas' running game, which ranks 37th in the nation at 210.5 yards per game. The Cyclones have allowed 177.3 rushing yards per game, 82nd nationally.
Rankings and records: Both teams are unranked. Texas began the season ranked No. 15 but dropped out of both the AP Top 25 and Coaches Polls after the loss to BYU. The two teams have faced each other 10 times, with the Longhorns winning all but one: the Oct. 23, 2010 match-up, a 28-21 Cyclones win.
Vegas: Texas opened as an 7.5-point favorite, but the David Ash injury may have led to some variance in the gambling lines. Current lines are all over the map, with the Longhorns favored by four to nine points. Check with OddsShark for more information
Weather: Thunderstorms are expected in Ames Thursday night, with a high temperature of 75 degrees and a low of 62, per Weather.com.
Three names to know
Texas running back Johnathan Gray: The Big 12's third-leading rusher, Gray has racked up 350 yards on a 5.3-per carry average, including three touchdowns. Texas' last game, a win over Kansas State, saw his greatest workload of the season: 28 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
Iowa State quarterback Sam B. Richardson: The sophomore quarterback lost his first two starts this season, though his numbers have been fair: 70-of-112 (62.5 percent) for 757 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. The Cyclones aren't exactly high-powered -- their 26.3 points per game rank 83rd in the nation -- so a solid performance from Richardson will be key.
Texas head coach Mack Brown: How long behind Lane Kiffin is Texas' head coach? Kiffin was fired as USC's head coach this week, and Brown's seat has never been hotter. Would a loss at Iowa State be enough for the Longhorns to pull the trigger?
Two things at stake
For Brown/Texas, it's his job security. Both teams would like to make an imprint on the conference standings, of course. This'll be Iowa State's Big 12 opener, with a trip to Texas Tech looming the following weekend and game at Baylor the week after.
How to witness
TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET. Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack and Samantha Ponder will call the action.