This Thursday, the Cyclones take on Texa$ to avenge last year’s loss in Austin. We asked Burnt Orange Nation to answer some questions about the game and the Oregon Trail.
1. What is the most critical area the Longhorns need to improve on over the bye week before they get to Ames?
With Connor Williams out, the offensive line is a major concern. Once he went down in the second quarter against USC, the Trojans found their way into the backfield with relative ease several times and even sacked Sam Ehlinger three times in a row. Injuries haven't been kind to the 'Horns along the offense line and it's making everything else falter.
2. Who is a player on either side of the ball that Iowa State fans may not be familiar with, but should definitely keep an eye on?
Offensively, Collin Johnson is a star in the making. He was the best receiver in the entire game against USC, making several NFL-caliber catches and finished with 191 yards. Plus, he's 6-foot-6 and deceptively athletic so he's a matchup nightmare. Flip the field and cornerback Holton Hill is the guy on defense. Texas' secondary has been torched over the last few years, but Hill finally appears to be making the jump to becoming one of the better DBs in the big 12. I wouldn't be surprised if he's a Thorpe Award finalist at the end of the year.
3. What's your impression so far of the Herman regime?
So far, my review is positive. Obviously, 1-2 isn't ideal, but he and his staff can recruit like crazy, he's gotten the facilities back up to par and in the last two games, Texas has played exceptionally well for its circumstances. Texas is far from back, but I feel a lot better about the direction of the program than I did at the end of the regular season last year.
4. Is this a strength vs. strength matchup, or do you see this being more a shootout?
I wouldn't say a shootout, but I see both teams putting up some points. At this point, Texas' offense is pretty suspect, but Shane Buechele will be back at QB and that should help with some plays downfield. But I've been incredibly impressed with Iowa State's offense, as well. The 'Horns run defense looks amazing as of late so I think this comes down to Jacob Park and his weapons vs. Texas' secondary.
5. How do you expect the 'Horns to counter Iowa State's surprisingly stout run defense?
Simple: Spread the field and throw the ball. Fortunately for Texas, running the ball isn't its strength by any stretch of the imagination, so being slowed by ISU's run defense likely won't look much different than Maryland and USC, although it's worth noting that both were losses.
6. What's the latest on the quarterback situation?
I'd be extremely surprised if Shane Buechele doesn't start. As Herman noted, Buechele hasn't done anything to lose his job, he just got hurt.
7. Texas really struggled against Maryland, but hung tough with USC. Which version of this team is more likely to show up next Thursday, and which is closer to where the team is as a whole?
Personally, I think the latter. Per usual, there's always Texas hype and I think they came out assuming they'd beat a Maryland team that's better than advertised. I think the loss was a wake up call for sure and despite losing to USC, I think they learned that they can at least compete with anyone.
8. Video game questions have been coming up a lot in our mailbags recently, and we've actually started our own ongoing game of Oregon Trail on the WRNL Podcast. What is your preferred delivery method of the sweet release of death on the Oregon Trail?
Man, you went way back on this one. But I would have to go with a broken arm, just because it makes absolutely no sense. Has anybody in history ever really died from a broken arm?
9. If WRNL, Burnt Orange Nation, Rock Chalk Talk, Crimson & Cream Machine, and Viva the Matadors were characters on the Oregon Trail, who would die first, and why is it Rock Chalk Talk?
It's definitely not Rock Chalk Talk — it's VTM. Those people waste good tortillas, which is a borderline sin in south and central Texas, and if you're wasting quality TexMex, you deserve to die by breaking the arm you threw the tortillas with.
10. Prediction Time:
Man, Texas has scarred me to the point that I'm always hesitant to predict a win, but here goes: 31-17 Texas. If the defense plays like it has the last two weeks, Texas won't have to pour on points and with Buechele returning, I wouldn't be surprised if the offense is noticeably more explosive than it was with Ehlinger running the show.