Texas has cratered spectacularly after a 2-0 start. The Longhorns looked liked they'd really changed in Charlie Strong's third year on the job, but a three-game losing streak has Strong's seat looking hot again, and Texas desperately needs a win on Saturday to stop the bleeding. Iowa State, at least, isn't the hardest draw the Horns could've gotten.
The Cyclones aren't good, but they're a bit better than their record indicates. They put a good scare into Baylor at home two weeks ago and lost by a touchdown last week at Oklahoma State. First-year coach Matt Campbell has one of the least-talented rosters in the power conferences, and the Cyclones don't stand out as particularly good at any one thing. But they're not the miserable team some had feared they'd be, at least not so far.
So, the long and short: Texas should be fine at home, but the Cyclones have hung with teams better than Texas. If the Horns aren't sharp, they could lose, which would leave them a disastrous 2-4.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network. The broadcasters are Lowell Galindo, Ahmad Brooks, Keith Moreland, and Dawn Davenport.
Radio: Iowa State and Texas
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Texas opened as a 13.5-point favorite.
Make friends: Horns fans, to SB Nation's team blog chats at Burnt Orange Nation or Barking Carnival! Cyclones fans, to Wide Right & Natty Lite.
Three big things to know
1. Texas has to get the most out of Tyrone Swoopes. The Horns are mulling changes to the 18-Wheeler package in which they've featured Swoopes' power running, but that package worked better in the first few weeks than the last few. Iowa State's run defense has gotten crushed a couple of times, most notably when Baylor went for 7.6 yards per carry. For all the Horns' issues, running the ball isn't one of them, and Texas' big backs (not just Swoopes) could have a nice night.
2. That Texas defense is pretty brutal, though. Strong has already taken play-calling duties from coordinator Vance Bedford, but that didn't help much against Oklahoma, when the Sooners put up 45 points and 672 yards of offense. Iowa State doesn't have that sort of firepower, but more shocking things have happened than ISU managing to move the ball against this Texas team.
3. Recall that Iowa State whomped Texas last year, 24-0. The Horns lost that day because they couldn't move the ball, not because Iowa State's offense was so terrific. If Texas' defense can hold ISU to 24 points again, the Horns should win without any significant trouble. But whether the Horns can do that is an open question.