Kansas State's offense has run a total of 647 plays through their first ten games of this season. Of those 647 total plays, 411 of them have been rushing attempts. Which roughly equates to an offense that, on average, rushes the football 64% of the time.
If you're even vaguely familiar with this year's version of the Snydercats, those statistics probably don't surprise you. Surely they won't even register for our K-State visitors this week here on CCM.
However, the point here being that Kansas State presents a unique challenge in terms of what Oklahoma typically faces on a weekly basis in a somewhat pass happy Big 12 conference. And we say 'somewhat' this year because the quarterback play has fallen considerably thus forcing offensive coordinators to adjust their approach. Or if your name is Josh Heupel just continuing to ram that mother friggin square peg through that fracking round hole if it's the last damn thing you do!
But I digress.
With what Mike Stoops and this defense can expect to face in Manhattan on Saturday, you should plan on seeing the Sooners line up defensively in their 3-4 formation much more frequently than we've seen in recent weeks.
The odds of this OU defense stopping Daniel Sams, Jake Waters, John Hubert and company are not great, but it is reasonable to assume, if they execute their game plan and play fundamentally sound, they can at least slow them down.
Their best plan for doing so is likely going to involve an extra defender (or possibly even two if they chose to bring walk a safety down) in the box.
In the past when Mike Stoops has employed this 3-4 formation, he's typically used P.L. Lindley as his fourth linebacker/defacto defensive end. Lindley is a guy the OU coaches have tried to convert from a linebacker to a defensive end and at 6'2" 254 pounds, he's one of the few "big" linebackers on OU's roster. So the coaches have used him on that edge as a bigger body to try and help defend the run.
It's probably fair to say they've had mixed results when using both Lindley and this particular 3-4 defensive formation. They are fairly limited from a personnel standpoint, so they have had to make due with what is available to them.
And while Kansas State doesn't have an offensive line full of guys that will eventually be playing on Sundays, if you know anything about Bill Snyder teams it's that few in the country play more fundamentally sound. It will be absolutely critical that Oklahoma's front seven play disciplined, maintain their rush lanes, and avoid those mistakes that Snyder teams so rarely fail to capitalize on.
For instance, you don't need us to tell you Eric Striker has a tendency to get way too far up the field at times with his edge rush. Well you can bet Snyder and his staff have seen that on film and have a plan in place to exploit it. Why worry about one of OU's two most dynamic pass-rushers when you can simply allow him to take himself out of the play?
Because they are running the ball to set up their play-action and what makes it all the more effective is that it's not your traditional play-action. The threat of both Sams and Waters as mobile quarterbacks makes this OU front seven's job all the more difficult. The instant you cheat up or get caught peeking into the backfield is when they send a receiver or tight end into that gap between the linebacker and safeties.
You can single out the importance of any number of individual players and/or areas in which this OU defense will have to play well.
We already mentioned Striker and Lindley. Jordan Wade in the middle is going to have to be a presence. Dominique Alexander and Frank Shannon cannot afford to miss tackles or Sams and Hubert are going to make them pay. Charles Tapper has to be the disruptive force he's proved himself to be this year.
It's going to take a collective effort to be sure.
This is going to be a tough assignment for a relatively inexperienced OU front seven that, while talented and with a bright future, is going to have to play one of their better games this season to give the Sooners a chance for a quality road win.