AMES, IOWA (AP) - It’s been a long time since the eyes of the Big 12 were fixated on Iowa State.
The Cyclones (3-0) and their promising new quarterback, Steele Jantz, host No. 17 Texas (3-0) on Saturday night in the Big 12 opener for both teams.
It promises to be one of the biggest home games in recent memory for the Cyclones, who beat the Longhorns last season for the first time in eight tries. Do it again, and Iowa State could be looking at their first Top 25 appearance in six years and their first 4-0 start since 2000.
“To be 3-0 at the end of that very challenging schedule has certainly done a lot for our confidence,” said Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, now in his third year.
The caveat to all that enthusiasm in Ames is something Rhoads said he can “feel through the film” watching the Longhorns.
Texas is starting to play like Texas again.
The Cyclones weren’t the only team that upset and surprised the Longhorns last year. The result was a 5-7 record, the same as Iowa State, and sweeping changes for the program.
About all that’s left of the coaching staff is the man on top, coach Mack Brown, and the usual array of talent that seems to be gelling into a unit that can contend for another Big 12 title.
After escaping with a 17-16 win over BYU, Texas went to the Rose Bowl and pounded UCLA, another team that stunned them in Austin last season. Next up on the revenge tour is Iowa State.
The Longhorns plan to play both sophomore quarterback Case McCoy and freshman David Ash against the Cyclones. McCoy, the younger brother of former Texas star Colt McCoy, was 12-of-15 passing for 168 yards and two TDs against the Bruins and appears to have to lot in common with his brother, now starting in Cleveland.
“Not much bothers him. He’s got some of those intangibles that his brother,” Brown said.
Iowa State’s got a playmaker of their own in Jantz, a junior college transfer.
Jantz has been wildly inconsistent for the Cyclones, but he’s also 3-for-3 in fourth-quarter comebacks.
Jantz has thrown for six touchdowns against six picks, including three in the first quarter of a 24-20 win at Connecticut on Sept. 16. But he threw and ran for late TDs in a wild opening-game win over Northern Iowa, was named the Big 12’s offensive player of the week after beating rival Iowa in triple overtime and threw the decisive TD pass in the fourth quarter on a hurt foot to hold off the Huskies.
Texas will look to force Jantz into making mistakes, then make sure he doesn’t have any time for a comeback.