When the Oklahoma Sooners last visited the Kansas State Wildcats in 2017, the two teams staged a compelling shootout that saw OU escape with a 42-35 victory. It took a Heisman Trophy-caliber effort from legendary quarterback Baker Mayfield to keep the Crimson and Cream’s College Football Playoff hopes alive.
Oklahoma’s run defense vs. the Kansas State ground attack
Two years ago, the Oklahoma Sooners went up to Manhattan with a freshman MIKE linebacker who was coached by Tim Kish and working within a Mike Stoops defensive scheme. Gap discipline was predictably an issue for the young Kenneth Murray. Additionally, Oklahoma’s tackling was well below what should’ve been the standard for this program, and the result was the Kansas State Wildcats rushing for 268 yards on 42 attempts (6.2 yards per carry).
This dark period of Oklahoma defense is surely behind us, as OU currently ranks sixth nationally in run stuff percentage (allowing one yard or less on rush plays with a distance of two yards or more). When going against a tough-running offense (197.2 yards per game) whose goal is to use the clock to its advantage, these occurrences come in handy. Because of this, I have the Sooners covering the 23.5 spread.
Will the offensive line continue its solid run of form?
After watching a injury-riddled and inexperienced offensive line struggle to open up running lanes and protect Jalen Hurts against Kansas, Oklahoma fans were justifiably concerned about the unit entering OU-Texas week. Three weeks later, all five starters are healthy and enter the Kansas State game with back-to-back solid performances.
The unit faces a Kansas State defense that’s allowing 195.2 yards per game on the ground, although that number is slightly inflated by FBS rushing leader Chuba Hubbard’s 296-yard performance (and OSU’s 373 rushing yards as a team). At any rate, this is a matchup that this offensive line can exploit, and I’d expect the forward momentum to keep going.
A big week in the Heisman race?
Kansas State ranks 37th nationally in defensive SP+, which is respectable but not great. For reference, the Sooners rank 27th in the same category. However, this is the highest ranking of any OU opponent to date in 2019, so the offense might actually receive a bit of resistance from Boom Massie, Wyatt Huber & Co. The group has On the bright side, this defense has been susceptible to the big play this season, and Oklahoma’s offense obviously has a proclivity for producing said plays. Additionally, K-State has only produced eight sacks all season, so a clean pocket should be there for Jalen Hurts.
Taking all of this into account, Hurts should have his opportunities to boost his case to Oklahoma’s third consecutive Heisman Trophy winner. Meanwhile, current betting favorite Joe Burrow will be facing an elite defense for the first time this season when the Auburn Tigers come to town. Will Burrow still hold his position by Saturday evening?
Favorite wins in Manhattan
1. Oklahoma 41, Kansas State 31 – 2000: Fans love to remember the win over Nebraska and the blowout, but when considering the environment Oklahoma was facing in Manhattan, the win over No. 3 Kansas State may have been the most impressive of the Sooners’ Red October run. OU would of course go on to win its seventh national championship.
The Oklahoma defense is fantastic on third downs.
The ball control style that relies on time of possession only works if the offense manages to win on third downs. Kansas State’s defense leads the Big 12 in third down D, but Oklahoma is second. The K-State O is just okay on third downs, and OU’s attack is a killer at moving the chains when it has to.
In the loss to Oklahoma State, Kansas State managed to convert just 8% of its third down tries. In the loss to Baylor, the Wildcats couldn’t handle the big plays. Expect the Sooners to be able to do a mix of both things.
As good as the Wildcat defense might be, it doesn’t get after the quarterback. That’s not necessarily a bad thing considering Jalen Hurts gets the ball out of his hands in a hurry, but if he doesn’t have to worry about being pressured, and if he gets time to find his second receiver, there’s a problem.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 26 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Bill Snyder Family Stadium — Manhattan, Kansas
TV: ABC |