To open a pivotal third season, Charlie Strong‘s Texas Longhorns face three opponents who won 10 or more games a year ago, including one CFP semifinalist. And that’s just in the first five games.
In a near perfect world, Texas would take two out of three games against Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. In reality, the Longhorns probably would settle for a single win and move into a more workable patch of the schedule.
Indeed, the narrative of this season, good or bad, could be determined by the halfway point of the schedule.
We’re breaking down all 12 opponents, divided into four separate phases of the schedule:
The Tossups — three winnable (and losable) games. Texas at Kansas State (Oct. 22), vs. Baylor (Oct. 29) and at Texas Tech (Nov. 5).
The Home Stretch — the final three games of the season. Texas vs. West Virginia (Nov. 12), at Kansas (Nov. 19) and vs. TCU the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).
THE EARLY TESTS: The three defining games to open Big 12 play
Game 6: Texas vs. Iowa State
Oct. 15, Longhorn Network
This looks like a gimme — until you remember last year’s game in Ames, when Texas managed only 204 total yards and was blanked, 24-0.
It was arguably the most humiliating loss in Strong’s time at Texas, although there are other candidates for that infamous distinction.
After Paul Rhoads failed to make Iowa State a Big 12 contender, the Cyclones turned to Matt Campbell, a consistent winner at Toledo.
Iowa State, at a glance
2015: 3-9, 2-7 in the Big 12 (ninth).
Triplets: QB Joel Lanning (107-193-1,247, 10/4 in 2015), RB Mike Warren (227-1,339-5), WR Allen Lazard (56-808-6)
Last time: Iowa State 24, Texas 0 (2015, in Ames)
The last five Texas-Iowa State matchups:
2015 — Iowa State 24, Texas 0 (Ames)
2014 — Texas 48, Iowa State 45 (Austin)
2013 — Texas 31, Iowa State 30 (Ames)
2012 — Texas 33, Iowa State (Austin)
2011 — Texas 37, Iowa State 14 (Ames)
Last year: The best way to deflate your balloon after winning two straight games, including a nationally televised upset of Oklahoma? For Texas, it was a road trip to Ames. By the end of the night, after the Cyclones’ 24-0 shutout win, Texas and Iowa State were a pair of identical 3-5 teams with identical 2-3 marks in the Big 12. Texas’ best offensive performer, for what it was worth, was Tyrone Swoopes, who threw for 59 yards and rushed for 58 in his 18-Wheeler package coming off the bench; he was 6-of-13 passing on the night. Lanning passed for 188 yards and a touchdown, Warren ripped Texas for 157 yards and a score on 32 carries, and Lazard caught six passes. Looking for bright spots? Peter Jinkens had two sacks, Davante Davis broke up three passes and Michael Dickson averaged 45.8 yards (on nine punts). At least Iowa State’s Homecoming wasn’t ruined.
Our 2015 coverage: (… for those wanting to relive the carnage, that is) Our game story (“Unfocused Horns get hammered by Iowa State”), a Kirk Bohls column (“Strong was quick to the defense of his offense”), five key plays.
Next game on the schedule: At Kansas State