Another week down, but now, for the first time... a conference game! Nothing better than a night game getting it started, too. The 7 pm kick will be welcomed, especially with the heat on the way.
Everything is in front of the Sooners with this one. Kansas State was a favorite “dark horse” in the Big 12 during the preseason. New QB. Retained DL talent. Whats not to love? Well, it’s been an interesting start. The offense largely hasn’t caught much traction, but the defense so far this year has lived up to the billing. Oklahoma’s offensive line will have its hands full, and they’ll need to get used to it. The Big 12 is packed full of good defensive lines, so the Sooners will see a few more by the end of the conference slate. This, however, might be the best one.
Gabriel likely will have to buy some time with his legs. Eric Gray and Marcus Major might have to attack a defense despite muddy pictures up front and contact early. It will be interesting to see how Lebby attacks this one.
Storylines to watch
- Oklahoma will have their hands tied on offense to no fault of their own. Sooners will likely be staring down the best defensive line they may see until Oklahoma State. Pressure will be there, no matter how much of a difference Wanya Morris makes up front. So how does Dillon handle that? Thats the million dollar question. Dillon has faced two defenses that I would say are better than this one in his career — both in 2020. BYU and Cincinnati. How did Gabriel fare with sticky coverage and a pass rush? Not great. Right at 50 percent completion percentage, three sacks, an interception and just over 200 yards per game. Not stellar. Does that Dillon show back up? Not sure. Obviously Gabriel is much older and seasoned than in 2020, but it’s almost been almost 18 months since he has really been tested.
- We came out to a surprise against Nebraska. Three down linemen. Run blitzes. Keeping not only us on our toes but also the Nebraska offense. It was amazing to watch a game plan for the defense be brought to the table. Now, what does Brent do with a mobile QB who doesn’t seem to have the confidence to let it fly? I don’t know, but I am sure excited to find out. Obviously there are a lot of ways to attack a team like Kansas State, so how does a master mind like Brent pull this thing apart?
- Kansas Sate might be the best ‘special teams’ team in the conference. With the explosive playmakers they have at their disposal, it is hard to imagine they won’t play a role. I have been saying all week, if I were the Sooners I would give up 5-10 yards of field position by punting out of bounds at every chance (admittedly easier said than done). I wouldn’t want Brooks or Knowles anywhere near open field. I think this is especially important when you consider that Oklahoma will likely make it tough for Kansas State to score, so you don’t want to give any life to someone who doesn’t have it.
- Does home field play a role? Oklahoma a few times has had to call on the crowd to make a difference. Obviously the crowd will be excited for conference play, but can they be wired in from the jump? Do the lights help that? The Sooners with a real home field advantage would be scary.
Know your opponent: Who is Kansas State?
- Deuce Vaughn is the best player Oklahoma has played this season. It is not close. Sooners need to be ready for everything. Runs inside, outside, screens, Texas routes, and even a shot up the sideline. The thing, though, that I think is the most crucial? Sooners need to be ready for a big play that they won’t be able to stop and not let it affect them. Deuce will get one. A big run or catch that makes ESPN. Something. The Sooners can’t let it get to them.
- Malik Knowles is the second-best player Oklahoma has played this season. Sooners need to be ready for everything. Deep shots , reverses, screens, slants, and even a punt return or two. The thing though that I think is the most crucial? See above.
- Kansas State might have the best total defense in the Big 12. I SAID “MIGHT”. They are in the conversation, so they will make it tough on Oklahoma. The pass rush is real and Gabriel will need to be aware at all times. Secondary is sticky, but with Mims and Wease, the Sooners should have chances. Kansas State, through three games, has seven interceptions, so they excel at taking the ball away in the passing game. Can’t let that happen, obviously. If the Sooners don’t commit turnovers and play an average game on offense, it should be a win. If they struggle at all... brace for a sweaty second half.
- Adrian Martinez can’t throw. Well, at least he hasn’t been able to, as he seems to have some confidence issues. Three games in, and Martinez is just over 300 yards passing. The Sooners with Washington and company in the secondary could almost stand a chance of playing man and putting every other player in the box. The only hiccup is a Malik Knowles deep shot always lurking if Martinez just happens to get lucky. I’m excited to see how this is attacked. Obviously (as Brent pointed out) Martinez cut them up a year ago, so I am sure that he’s coming in hoping this is his get-right game of the season. The Sooners have every opportunity to make it another sad performance, with those fans in Manhattan considering turning to Will Howard yet again.
Kansas State I think will really, really struggle to move the ball. Everyone knows what’s coming with the K-State backfield. One big play leads to a field goal, another leads to a touchdown, but thats it. Adrian Martinez is too bad in the air to get any traction headed into this one. OU’s offense through the air looks good, special teams make a difference, but Oklahoma struggles to run in stretches.
OU - 24
Kansas State - 10