AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State and Tulsa face off Thursday night for the third time in 13 months — in the third different stadium, no less.
Neither the Cyclones nor the Golden Hurricane are approaching the rubber match as the last chance to prove which team is better, though. Both need a win simply to get their season going in the right direction.
Iowa State is 0-2 after losses to FCS school Northern Iowa and rival Iowa. Tulsa is 1-2 after getting pounded at Bowling Green and at No. 14 Oklahoma.
The Golden Hurricane got the better of the Cyclones in their last meeting, a 31-17 win in the 2012 Liberty Bowl. But Tulsa has 13 new starters, including 10 underclassmen, and Iowa State entered this season with the least-experienced group of starters among Big 12 teams.
"We're two teams coming off a successful run a year ago and I think we are both in search of the next win. We both desperately need to get back on track," Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said.
Blankenship and his Iowa State counterpart, Paul Rhoads, share major issues with scuffling offenses.
Tulsa is averaging just 19 points a game and has struggled to run and throw the ball. The Cyclones have only put up 20 and 21 points in their first two games, and sophomore quarterback Sam Richardson's injured ankle remains a major concern.
"Sam is moving much better than he did in the Iowa game. But he's far from healthy," Rhoads said. "It's a lingering type of ankle injury that may bother him throughout the course of the season."
Here are five things to watch when the Cyclones and Golden Hurricane kickoff in Tulsa:
1. CYCLE IN THE CLONES: Despite underwhelming numbers from its running backs, Iowa State remains committed to a back-by-committee approach. The Cyclones have just 141 yards rushing from running backs and are 101st nationally in yards per game.
"You're going to continue to see a number of backs in there," Rhoads said. He's not kidding either. Iowa State has five backs listed on their latest depth chart, and all of them are designated as possible starters.