Big 12 title in play when No. 15 Iowa State visits No. 20 Texas
A front-running position for the Big 12 Championship game will be on the line when conference leader and No. 15 Iowa State plays at No. 20 Texas on Friday afternoon in Austin, Texas.
Iowa State (6-2 overall) is 6-1 in Big 12 play for the first time in program history.
The Cyclones sit atop the league standings with just two regular-season games to play. If Iowa State can beat Texas and win on Dec. 5 at home versus West Virginia, the Cyclones will find themselves in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 19, playing for a Big 12 title.
But there are plenty of obstacles in the Cyclones’ path. Iowa State hasn’t won in Austin since 2010, has beaten Texas just three times in 17 all-time meetings, and could have to play its best game of the year on a short week.
“This is going to be maybe one of the great challenges that I’ve had and we’ve had as a program since we’ve been here,” fifth-year Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “It’s going to be really hard, and yet I feel like that’s what you want this time of year — hard, tough challenges that are defining of who you are and who you become.”
The Cyclones head to Austin on the heels of an uber-impressive 45-0 win at home over Kansas State.
Iowa State boasts the NCAA’s leading rusher in Breece Hall (1,169), who has rushed for more than 100 yards in all eight games in 2020, a stat that’s also No. 1 nationally.
Iowa State hasn’t won a conference title since 1912 and has never played in a conference championship game.
Texas (5-2, 4-2) is riding a three-game winning streak but hasn’t played since Nov. 7, when it posted a 17-13 win at home over West Virginia. The Longhorns’ Nov. 21 game at Kansas was postponed to Dec. 12 because of positive COVID-19 tests within the Jayhawks’ program.
If Texas wins its final three games — Iowa State, Dec. 5 at Kansas State, and the rescheduled game at Kansas — the Longhorns will clinch a berth in the Big 12 title game.
Texas coach Tom Herman likes his team’s chances, both against Iowa State and to run the table.
“Iowa State is a really good football team — they’re ranked 15th in the country for a reason,” Herman said. “They beat Oklahoma, they beat a conference opponent 45-0, and they’re playing really well right now.
“Do I like our matchup? Yeah, we’re a really good football team, too. We’re one of the few teams in America left that still controls its own destiny. We know that you can’t win them all until you win the first one. That’s priority No. 1.”
Friday’s game will be the last at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium for the Longhorns’ 16-member senior class, which includes record-breaking quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
Through seven games this season, Ehlinger has completed 147-of-250 passes (58.8 percent) for 1,834 yards and 22 touchdowns to five interceptions. He has also rushed for a team-high 323 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ehlinger’s 178 points responsible for are the second-most in the country this season. He also ranks tied for sixth in passing touchdowns (22) and fourth in points responsible for per game (25.4).
Friday’s dustup also ends a 20-day stretch between games for Texas.
“The rust factor — we’re going to have to be cognizant of that,” Herman said. “We can’t sleepwalk through the first quarter.”
–Field Level Media