Smarting from a loss in Waco last weekend, the No. 13 Oklahoma Sooners (9-1, 6-1) are back home and looking to rebound in the season’s final contest at the Palace on the Prairie. The opponent? It’s none other than the Iowa State Cyclones (6-4, 4-3), who finished second in last year’s Big 12 standings and were picked to finish as runner-ups again during the preseason. While things haven’t played out that way for ISU, both the Fighting Matt Campbells and OU still have a shot at making the conference championship game going into this weekend.
With Saturday’s game being the final home contest of the 2021 season, that means it’s also Senior Day for Oklahoma. Keep in mind, due to the COVID-19 pandemic granting all players an extra year of eligibility, some players will participate in the senior day festivities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them will move on following this season.
Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. CT on FOX
Line: Oklahoma -3.5 (as of Friday at 6 p.m. CT)
How will Oklahoma respond to losing?
It’s been a while since the Sooners have had to rebound from a loss. In fact, OU went 406 days without losing during the span of its recently ended 17-game winning streak. Coincidentally, the last time Lincoln Riley’s team was beaten prior to last week was against this same Iowa State program. How this year’s group responds this weekend will reveal a lot about how focused and motivated it is as the postseason draws ever closer.
Which Iowa State team will show up?
Against Big 12 competition, ISU is 1-3 on the road vs. 3-0 at home in 2021. Additionally, the Cyclones’ average scoring margin drops from +26 to +0.3 when they play on the road in conference play. Judging from those figures alone, it’s apparent that Matt Campbell’s team simply plays differently away from Jack Trice Stadium. That said, Iowa State is 1-1 against Oklahoma in their last two meetings in Norman, including a seven-point upset win in 2017 and a one-point loss in 2019. Basically, this will most likely be a close contest given the recent measures of history.
Breece Hall is that guy
Junior RB Breece Hall isn’t just one of the best players in Big 12, he’s simply one of the star players from a national perspective as well. In addition to his league-leading 16 rushing touchdowns and 1,172 rushing yards (second-best in the conference), he truly epitomizes what it means to be both productive and consistent.
In his career against Oklahoma, Hall has been especially effective. In three games versus OU, he’s recorded for 328 rushing yards (109.3 ypg) and four touchdowns on 69 total carries. Needless to say, it’s going to be a major key for the Sooners to at least contain the talented back from taking over the game on Saturday.
Will the Sooners find success running the ball?
One of the biggest reasons why the Crimson & Cream were defeated in Waco was the lack of establishing the run. 82 rushing yards simply will not get the job done from here on out, so Lincoln Riley, the offensive line and this stable of running backs are going to have to figure out something fast or else a repeat performance could be on the horizon as early as this weekend.
I expect Oklahoma’s offense to look a little more comfortable early on compared to its rough showing in Waco, but ISU’s defense will rise up and collect their fair share of stops to keep this one from getting away from them. Caleb Williams should play better after the worst performance by far of his young career, but unless the Sooners can establish their ground game consistently, the true freshman QB could be in for another long day against a highly capable Cyclones defense. Speaking of D, OU’s defense will have its hands full with RB Breece Hall, as well the tight end passing game. On paper, this matchup truly looks like a virtual toss up, but with this game being in Norman, I’m going with the home team for the narrow victory.
Oklahoma 30, Iowa State 28
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