In their alternate unis, the Oklahoma Sooners return to action this morning against Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats at 11 a.m. on ESPN.
OU is coming off a tight but encouraging win over the Longhorns, who they beat in the Cotton Bowl 45-40 last week. Kansas State, meanwhile, survived a shootout to top Texas Tech 44-38 in Manhattan. They needed a pick-six and a return touchdown to overcome the prolific Raiders offense.
Oklahoma has been dealing with lots of injuries lately, and will be without defensive ends Matt Dimon and Charles Walker again this week. The Sooners are likely to gain Will Johnson after he missed the last two games, and Jonathan Alvarez is ready to go if needed on the offensive line.
Last season, Oklahoma absolutely routed Kansas State on its home field to rebound from a disappointing Texas loss and find the path that led it to the Playoff. But the Wildcats have had OU’s number in Norman since the Big 12 went to 10 teams, and the Sooners can ill-afford another surprise like the ones that derailed their 2012 and 2014 seasons.
Snyder’s offense has been pretty anemic so far this season, relying as it does on an inaccurate quarterback, unproven wide receivers and a young offensive line. Kansas State gets most of its yards on the ground with running backs Charles Jones and Dalvin Warmack, and Ertz also keeps the ball on occasion. In short yardage situations, the Wildcats sometimes bring in senior QB Joe Hubener, who has six touchdowns on just nine carries this season.
K-State is 112th nationally with with 344.2 offensive yards per game, but 44th in points per game at 34.2. That’s partially because of Kansas State’s defense, best in the Big 12 and boasting a +6 turnover margin so far this season. Baker Mayfield and Joe Mixon have had trouble with ball protection in recent games, and they’ll need to be especially vigilant in this contest.
The Wildcats have lots of defensive weapons—Jordan Willis and Will Geary on the line, Elijah Lee up the middle, Duke Shelley on the corner. Willis already has six sacks this season, so the offensive line will be under pressure all day. Baker Mayfield will have to establish the passing game early, or K-State will be after him from the jump. OU will also need Samaje Perine to have another big day.
At the end of the day, the Wildcats shouldn’t be able to match up with this OU team, which certainly has the potential to beat K-State just as badly as it did last season. But this matchup is a case of strength against strength, where K-State’s excellent defense will try to slow down an OU offense that seems to have hit its stride—and still has room for improvement, if Mark Andrews and Mixon can figure things out. The OU defense, too, looks to be improving, but the Wildcats no doubt see an opportunity for receivers like Dominique Heath and Byron Pringle to have a big day.
Pringle can also be deadly in the return game, too. Sooners fans remember how special teams has shaped this contest in years past, and they’ll need to contain Pringle to win this game.
This is a game that the Sooners absolutely should win--but the Wildcats are well-coached, well-disciplined and hungry to prove themselves in this wide-open Big 12. We’ve seen this script before, but maybe this is the year the Sooners put K-State away in Norman for the first time since 2009.