It’s been nearly six weeks since the No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners kicked off a night game, but this Saturday OU will be back in the limelight of prime time as Championship November begins under the Palace lights.
Iowa St. Cyclones at No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners (Norman, Oklahoma — Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium)
Time & TV: Saturday, Nov. 9, 7:00 p.m. CT, FOX
Commentators: Joe Davis, Brock Huard and Bruce Feldman
Radio: The Sooners Sports Radio Network with Toby Rowland can be found on KRXO 107.7 FM ‘The Franchise’ in OKC. For Tulsa listeners, listen to KMOD FM 97.5 or KTBZ AM 1430. Check out OU Football on TuneIn Radio for online access.
Line: Oklahoma -14.5 (as of Thursday at 10:00 a.m. CT)
Oklahoma Football’s annual Military Appreciation Day is scheduled for this Saturday, as well. If you’re planning on attending the game, make sure you check out everything the Sooners have in store for fans and vets alike.
How will Alex Grinch’s defense respond after its worst performance of 2019?
Just how poor was Oklahoma’s defensive showing against Kansas State? The Sooners gave up 48 points, 426 total yards, 7-14 conversions on third or fourth down and were on the field for over 38 minutes. Those figures are especially significant because all were season highs for Alex Grinch’s vaunted group. Aside from kicker Gabe Brkic, OU’s loss was a total team effort on both sides of the ball, but the defense in particular too often resembled the unit that was coordinated by Mike Stoops over the last few seasons. Having said that, Kansas State’s offensive scheme didn’t exactly provide an ideal matchup for Alex Grinch’s defense.
With Oklahoma coming off a BYE, Grinch should have had enough time to mend at least some of the areas that troubled the Sooners in their last outing. If you recall after the first open date of the season, OU put together arguably its most impressive defensive performance against Texas Tech. However, Iowa State has more QB talent in Brock Purdy than the Red Raiders had, along with enough dangerous weapons on offense to challenge Oklahoma’s secondary. If turnovers still aren’t happening, the key will be making consistent stops on third and fourth down.
Will Oklahoma’s running backs play a larger role in the offense?
The Sooners boast one of the deepest and most talented stable of running backs in the nation, yet you wouldn’t know that based solely off of the K-State loss. Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks combined for six rushes total, and rising newcomer Rhamondre Stevenson was absent from the box score entirely. Jalen Hurts has carried the bulk of the workload through eight games, but if Oklahoma wants to return to its balanced, highly-efficient ways, Lincoln Riley needs to return to his roots and incorporate all of his offensive weapons more evenly. To some degree, part of that also falls on Jalen Hurts, who seems to hand off on zone reads a bit too infrequently.
Can the Sooners make a statement to the CFP committee?
Now that Oklahoma knows where it’s stands in the collective eyes of the College Football Playoff committee, the idea of style points comes into play. I’m not necessarily talking about running up the score, and against a well-coached, disciplined team like Iowa State that’s practically impossible to do. However, if the Sooners are able to control the game from start to finish, win comfortably, and play a clean game on all sides of the ball, that’s a statement that could pay tremendous dividends during next week’s CFP rankings reveal. Covering the two-touchdown spread wouldn’t hurt, either.
Since Matt Campbell arrived in Ames, the Iowa State program has evolved from being a Big 12 pushover into a team that gives itself a chance to win on any given Saturday. Oklahoma’s talent is far superior to ISU’s across the board, but the reason why the Cyclones were able to beat the Sooners in Norman two seasons ago is because of Campbell’s and Heacock’s abilities to exploit Oklahoma’s weakness and tone down its strengths. It’s also the same reason why last year’s contest was relatively close, and why both teams were picked to finish in the top three of the Big 12 standings during the preseason.
I think the Sooners’ defense will bounce back from its awful day against K-State, and even though I don’t see Oklahoma’s offense struggling too much, I respect Iowa State’s tendency to contain its opponents and hold them under their season averages.
Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 24
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