Longhorns host Iowa State at 11 a.m. with Big 12 title berth up for grabs

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a playoff game from here on out for the Texas Longhorns.

Even after a deflating overtime loss to the rival Oklahoma Sooners earlier this season, the Longhorns maintained control of their own destiny — they just lost all margin for error.

When No. 20 Texas hosts No. 15 Iowa State on Friday morning at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium, both sides know what’s at stake. The winner is in position to play for the Big 12 conference championship and the loser will be on the outside looking in.

A handful of tiebreaker scenarios will ultimately decide the two participants for that title game at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, but if Texas wins its final three games it will own enough of those tiebreakers. The first task is the Cyclones at 11 a.m. — a team playing its best football at the late stages of the season.

Iowa State walloped Kansas State last week 45-0 for its most dominant win of the season. The Cyclones lead the Big 12 with a 6-1 conference record and only have the Longhorns and West Virginia remaining on the schedule. Iowa State is closer to its goal of clinching a title game spot and they have to win in Austin.

ISU running back Breece Hall is one of the top running backs in the country, eclipsing 100 rushing yards in every game of the 2020 regular season. Quarterback Brock Purdy played his best game of the season against the Wildcats after an up and down year with turnover struggles. Purdy threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions against Kansas State.

Iowa State certainly has Texas’ full attention.

“I want to say it got our guys’ attention, but they’ve had our attention. The minute the game was announced on Wednesday that we were not going to be able to play Kansas…our players went immediately into preparation mode for Iowa State. You can’t help but have a ton of respect and attention paid to Iowa State and the things that they’ve been able to do over the last few weeks,” Longhorns coach Tom Herman said.

The Longhorns have been focused on Iowa State since last Wednesday. Texas will be playing a game for the first time in 20 days after a scheduled bye week and an unexpected postponement due to COVID-19 issues with Kansas. It will also be senior day for the Longhorns, meaning it’s likely the final home game for quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

The Longhorns leader has started most games during his four-year career at Texas and is aiming for his second berth in the Big 12 title game — if Texas accomplishes its goal for the remainder of the year.

In total, Texas will honor 15 seniors before Friday’s game.

Julius Whittier’s statue will be unveiled in the north end of Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium before kickoff against Iowa State, Texas Athletics announced on Monday.

Whittier, Texas’ first Black football letterman and a trailblazer in the Longhorns football program, is a Texas Athletics Hall of Honor member and a national champion with the Longhorns in 1969 and 1970. The 1970 team is also being honored Friday for the 50th anniversary of that national championship season.

The 12.5-foot tall statue of Whittier has been in production since UT announced the commissioning of it in early July. The 11-foot bronze sculpture sets atop an 18-inch black granite base, according to UT Athletics.

In June, Texas student-athletes called on the university to make several changes toward racial inclusivity and anti-racism on campus. In July, university leaders announced efforts to “promote diversity, inclusion and equity and to more fully support Black students on campus.” A statue for the three-year varsity letterman was one of the university’s initiatives. 

Overall, the Longhorns are 8-1 at home against Iowa State. The Cyclones won in Ames last season with a last-second field goal, 23-21.

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