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Oklahoma Football vs. Iowa State: Game preview, storylines & predictions

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OU badly needs a rebound performance, but it won’t come easily in Ames.

NCAA Football: UL Lafayette at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it wasn’t the kind of start to Big 12 play that anybody expected, but that’s college football for you. The past is the past, and there’s no time to sulk for the No. 18 Oklahoma Sooners (1-1, 0-1), who are set to hit the road for the first time in 2020 to take on the Iowa State Cyclones (1-1, 1-0). Interestingly enough, the past four meetings between OU and ISU have each been decided by 10 points or less, and after what happened in Norman last weekend, there’s really no reason to expect anything different this time around.

Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m. CT on ABC

Streaming: WatchESPN

Line: Oklahoma -7 (as of Friday at 10 a.m. CT)

O/U: 63.5

Links of the week:

Major Storylines

Will Oklahoma’s running game finally break through?

Through two games, OU has averaged just 127 rushing yards per game with a 3.6 yards per rush average. That lack of production is not going to help Spencer Rattler and the passing game out very much the rest of the way, and it all starts up front. Overall, the Sooners’ experienced offensive line has struggled to mow down opposing D-lines, and the inexperience at running back is beginning to rear its head. T.J. Pledger made his 2020 season debut against K-State last Saturday, but looked rusty. Meanwhile, Seth McGowan has shown flashes of his explosiveness, but he’s also been inconsistent too often. If Oklahoma doesn’t generate close to 200 yards on the ground against Iowa State — who boasts one of the best defensive fronts in the Big 12 — this game will most likely be another nail biter.

Will Oklahoma win the turnover battle?

Against Missouri State, OU finished even in turnover margin at one apiece. Against Kansas State, the Sooners turned in an embarrassing -4 performance, giving up three interceptions and a fumble without creating any takeaways of their own. It’s almost impossible to win any conference game losing the TO margin by that much, period. If Oklahoma’s defense can’t find a way to take the ball away from Iowa State’s offense, it has to at least make sure it doesn’t give ISU extra possessions in return.

How will Spencer Rattler look in his first road test?

If you don’t count the picks, Rattler’s numbers against the Wildcats were actually quite impressive — 387 passing yards and four touchdowns at an almost 75 percent clip isn’t bad by any measure. However, the three INTs definitely count, and whether or not they were all on him is no matter, because at the end of the day he’s the one behind the wheel.

People forget that even the great Baker Mayfield himself had some shaky games during his first season in Norman. Rattler, with all his talent and abilities, is still a young quarterback with only two collegiate starts under his belt. That affords him some benefit of the doubt, but it doesn’t totally excuse him. He’ll have to play a lot cleaner in the games ahead if this team is to contend for a sixth consecutive Big 12 title.

Can Oklahoma build and sustain a lead?

Last weekend, OU blew a 21-point lead late in the third quarter. Last year against Iowa State, Jalen Hurts’ Sooners nearly blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, and if it wasn’t for a failed two-point conversion attempt by the Cyclones, the collapse would have been completed. For whatever reason, Oklahoma has found itself in some epic dog fights with ISU since Campbell took over in Ames. No lead feels truly safe, and perhaps that has more to do with Lincoln Riley’s program and its lack of a killer instinct. If that’s the case, then the issue is about the culture at the Palace on the Prairie, and that culture needs a facelift, stat.

Will Iowa State suffer its first loss while wearing all black?

The Cyclones have donned their all-black alternate uniforms on three previous occasions in the Matt Campbell era — against West Virginia in ‘17, Kansas State in ‘18 and Texas in ‘19. Each of those games were played at night, and each of those games ended with Iowa State as the victor. This can be chalked up to the uniform choice symbolizing a big night game, which results in an electric atmosphere. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of environment this crowd can create at reduced capacity.

On the other side, Oklahoma has not lost back-to-back regular season games in over 20 years. Ultimately, something has to give, because only one of these streaks is going to survive beyond this Saturday.

Prediction

I see Oklahoma’s defense coming out strong, making an early statement and setting the tone after looking terrible in the second half of last week’s loss. Rattler and the offense will also find success early, but the lead won’t grow big enough to count the Cyclones all the way out. QB Brock Purdy’s experience and RB Breece Hall’s talent will keep Iowa State in the game all night, and once again this contest will be decided by a single possession in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, OU bounces back in the win column, but the result won’t be as convincing as Sooner fans might hope for.

Oklahoma 42, Iowa State 34

Staff picks for this week

This is a new feature from Tallysight, which allows us to display our ATS, O/U and straight-up picks from week to week.

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