Time & TV: Saturday, 11 a.m. CT, ABC
Commentators: Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky and Allison Williams
Line: Oklahoma -23.5 (as of Friday at 7 p.m. CT)
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.
2. Oklahoma 55, Kansas State 0 - 2015: Coming off of a loss to Texas and experiencing an eight-hour flight delay might demoralize a lot of teams, but Baker Mayfield and the Sooners weren’t having any of that. OU would use this as a springboard to its first College Football Playoff appearance.
3. Oklahoma 42, Kansas State 35 - 2017: This game was closer than it need to be, but it also served as a coming-out party for both Rodney Anderson and Marquise Brown. I’ll let Gus Johnson take it from here:
Borrowing from my gambling post:
The Oklahoma Sooners are humming along entering this game against the outmatched Wildcats, but K-State’s clock-chewing offensive scheme could make the number on the scoreboard much more respectable than the actual reality of its situation on Saturday. Having said that, I don’t think the Wildcats are going to get enough first downs against Murray & Co. to effectively chew said clock. Oklahoma’s issues with gap discipline allowed the 2017 game in Manhattan to turn into a barn burner, but times have changed for the better. On the other side, K-State fields a respectable defense (No. 37 in defensive SP+) but simply doesn’t have the horses to hang with the OU offense.
Oklahoma 45, Kansas State 17