Manhattan, KS– On Saturday night at 6:50 p.m. the 15th ranked Kansas State Wildcats will play its biggest game since, well the last time they played the Oklahoma Sooners. In a game that has been circled on purple calendars for about a year, K-State will look to do what has never been done before in the Bob Stoops era, win as a ranked team in Norman Oklahoma.
In an almost cliche fashion, the key to winning this game, for both teams, lies in the trenches. Both teams have been left with little returning experience on the offensive line. Oklahoma has lost 2 starters on the offensive line, (Ben Habern to retirement, and Tyler Evans to injury), while graduating another. Forcing left guard Gabe Ikard to switch to center, and right tackle Daryl Williams to switch to left tackle. What appeared to be a strength going into the season, has now become a severe question mark.
On the flip side, Kansas State has lost 3 starters to graduation, and starting left guard Nick Puetz to an injury. Making So. center B.J. Finney K-States only returning starting offensive lineman for the time being. The 4 newcomers have done a good job of allowing Klein and company room to operate through three games this season. But the Cats have not faced a defense like the Sooner’s yet this season.
The key for Kansas State is to follow the same game plan Snyder used to defeat #1 Oklahoma back in the 2003 big 12 championship game. On offense, establish a running game and keep Mike Stoops’ aggressive defense off balance by running screens and play action. On defense, shut down the run game, pressure the QB, and force turnovers.
If K-State wants to win this game, Collin Klein must run and throw the ball with perfection. The Sooners will force Klein to throw the ball by blitzing and stunting on almost all the plays. If K-State can establish one part of the offense in the first half, whether it be the running, or passing game. The Cats will most likely be able to establish the other in the second half. Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett, and Tramaine Thompson could be in for big days if the K-State line can provide Klein time to throw. OU Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops will blitz every man on the field to hit Klein early and often. If the Sooners don’t tackle well, Klein could put up even more rushing yards than Nathan Jefferies of UTEP did in the season opener (177). But look for Kansas State to run screens and play actions to keep Oklahoma off balance. Starting safeties, Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson like to scream up to the LOS when the smell run. Leaving the play action pass open.
For Oklahoma, the keys to the game are very similar. On offense, get QB Landry Jones going early, and establish a running game with Damien Williams in order to keep the pressure off Jones. On defense it’s simple, stop Collin Klein. Last year Jones torched K-State threw the air. Throwing for 5 TD’s and 505 yards, an Oklahoma record in the 58-17 beat down of K-State. In the 6 games since, Jones has thrown 5 TD’s, 7 INT’s and is only averaging 264 yards a game. What Landry Jones comes out to play is a big question in this game. Jones has not been the same since losing receivers Ryan Broyles (injury and graduation) and Jazz Reynolds (injury and suspension). If Jones turns the ball over 2 times, K-States chances of winning soar.
Meanwhile, JR. RB Damien Williams will look to continue his impressive start to the season, where he has ran for 259 yards and 5 TD’s. If Williams has another big day, Kansas State is in trouble.
In last years beatdown, Oklahoma allowed Klein to run on them in the first half, but held him to just 58 yards passing the entire game. It will take a similar performance to beat the Cats this year. Oklahoma returns experience in the secondary and linebackers, but has virtually an entirely new defensive line. While talented the Sooner line is inexperienced and in for a big test on Saturday.
The final key to this game for both teams is the battle of special teams. K-State has already scored 2 TD’s in the return game this season and blocked a field goal. While Oklahoma surrendered a blocked punt for a TD against UTEP. Oklahoma might have the better kicker in this one, but K-State has the better unit. There a reason K-State leads the nation in non offensive TD’s since 1999. So. Tyler Lockett is one of the biggest game changers in college football today when it comes to special teams. For Oklahoma, Justin Brown is no slouch either. Whichever teams wins the battle of special teams, might come out victorious in this game.
Bob Stoops is 14-0 at home against ranked teams, and only one of those games was in single digits. That one close game was a tight 39-38 victory over the Bill Snyder coached Kansas State Wildcats. The current line is 14 points. The last time K-State faced Oklahoma as the 15th ranked team in the nation and 14 point underdogs? I think we all know the story of Darren Sproles and Ell Roberson spoiling the “greatest college football team of all time”. This time K-State will turn to none other than Sr. QB Collin Klein to lead them to victory and pull of another Bill Snyder upset.
Prediction: Kansas State 31 Oklahoma 24