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

OU seeks payback over Chris Klieman’s ‘Cats after last season’s disaster in Manhattan.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Oklahoma at Kansas State Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It feels like it’s been a month since the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners last played a football game, but the wait is just about over with the Kansas State Wildcats coming to Norman this Saturday to kick off Big 12 play. For a while, this contest was far from a sure thing with positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing protocols reportedly ravaging both teams since the 2020 season began, but somehow they’ve each managed to make it to this point above the threshold line. And yes, it is happening!

Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 11 a.m. CT on FOX

Streaming: FoxSportsGo. Streamers who don’t have a cable subscription can also catch the game on fuboTV, which also carries ESPN and ABC. Crimson & Cream Machine has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.

Line: Oklahoma -27.5 (as of Friday at 10 a.m. CT)

O/U: 60.5

Links of the week:

Major Storylines

Does OU have revenge on its mind?

Yes!

At 48-23 in the fourth quarter, it looked like it was about to be Oklahoma’s ugliest loss of the Lincoln Riley era. Suddenly, the Sooners woke up and surged for 18 unanswered points, but a controversial onside kick was ruled in favor of Kansas State, effectively icing the game and sealing the improbable upset.

Though the loss to K-State didn’t keep OU out of the College Football Playoff in 2019, there is no denying the bad taste it left in the mouths of Riley, Grinch and every Sooner who suited up that day. For the past two weeks, this team has been reminded (either internally or externally) of that embarrassing defeat last October, and that doesn’t bode well for anybody counting on Oklahoma to sleepwalk its way into this one.

Will Spencer Rattler be as efficient against a Power Five defense?

In the first start of his collegiate career, Spencer Rattler threw the ball about as accurately as humanly possible. In two quarters, the redshirt freshman completed 14 of 17 passes for 290 yards, four touchdowns and a 97.5 quarterback rating. It should also be noted that two of his three incompletions not only occurred in the end zone but were dead on the money.

No disrespect to Bobby Petrino’s Bears, but this is Rattler’s first real opportunity to throw against a credible FBS defense. Against Arkansas State, KSU struggled to defend the pass, giving up 330 yards through the air to the Red Wolves at a clip of 8.7 yards-per-attempt. It’ll be telling to watch how OU’s young signal caller performs this weekend against a respected Big 12 defense.

Can Alex Grinch’s defense maintain its strong play?

When Oklahoma traveled to the Little Apple last season, Alex Grinch’s defense wound up surrendering the most points (48) and second-most yards (426) outside of that hellacious Peach Bowl performance we dare not speak of. In addition to hemorrhaging points and yards, OU’s ‘Speed D’ failed to force any takeaways, allowed the Wildcats’ offense to hold onto the ball for more than 38 minutes while also converting fifty percent of their third/fourth downs.

So far in 2020, Grinch’s group looks like it has the potential to be one of the better defenses in the Big 12 again, but it’ll be tested in ways Missouri State simply couldn’t from a coaching and talent perspective. K-State QB Skylar Thompson is a senior, so he won’t be rattled easily, and there are legitimate playmakers at the skill positions that should present their own unique challenges throughout day. However, with Kansas State’s offseason turnover along the offensive line, the OU D could end up having a big day.

Will OU’s running game improve after an underwhelming Week 1 showing?

Oklahoma has averaged well over 200 rushing yards per game in each of the past seven seasons, so it was more than a little surprising to see the Sooners come up with a net total of just 124 yards on the ground against a severely overmatched Missouri State squad two weeks ago. Still, OU’s offense eclipsed the 600 yard mark for the umpteenth time in the Lincoln Riley era, so the issue appears to be more of a balance of production than anything else.

Perhaps part of the reason why rushing yards were particularly hard to come by in the season opener could be attributed to the missing players on offense. Specifically, the Sooners were without starting left tackle Anton Harrison and starting running back T.J. Pledger. Also, the youth and inexperience in the backfield likely played a role in OU’s low rushing total. Fortunately for Oklahoma, both of the aforementioned starters are set to return to the lineup this Saturday against Kansas State, and true freshman RB Seth McGowan looks like a budding star with the ball in his hands.

Is Deuce Vaughn the next Darren Sproles?

In his collegiate debut, the 5’5, 168-pound true freshman racked up 71 yards and one touchdown on 13 touches from scrimmage. Considering his size and the team he plays for, Deuce Vaughn has drawn many comparisons to former Wildcat Darren Sproles, but the parallels don’t end there. This latest K-State scatback also uses his size to his advantage in the leverage game, and packs quite a wallop in his lower body, allowing him to power his way forward for the tough yards between the tackles.

If he finds a seam, his quickness makes him a legitimate threat to find the chains or the end zone. Grinch better hope his defense is ready to contain the edges much better this time around, or else this weekend could turn into a coming out party for Deuce.

Prediction

Lincoln Riley is undefeated in September games (14-0), and OU has not lost a Big 12 opener since 2012. I also realize those are reasons that hold absolutely zero weight in this contest. I’m just the kind of guy who enjoys keeping track of worthless stats like that. I envision the Sooners will come out of the gates fast in this one, going ahead early and staying ahead throughout. With the Wildcats’ extremely green offensive line and overall team depth issues this week, I don’t see a way Chris Klieman’s squad can keep this game particularly close in the second half. The revenge factor is probably overstated, but this is college football, so it is a factor nevertheless. For those reasons, I predict a relatively comfortably Oklahoma win.

Oklahoma 49, Kansas State 17

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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