GAME NOTES: The No. 22 Oklahoma Sooners will begin their two-game road swing to conclude the 2013 regular season on Saturday as they venture to Bill Snyder Family Stadium for a Big 12 matchup against the Kansas State Wildcats.
The Sooners bounced back from their 29-point loss at Baylor on Nov. 7 with a 48-10 rout of the Iowa State Cyclones in their home finale last week. Coach Bob Stoops will be looking for his 158th win as Oklahoma's head coach on Saturday, which would allow him to pass the legendary Barry Switzer to become the winningest coach in school history. The Sooners have gone 9-0 in the state of Kansas under Stoops.
The Wildcats got off to a slow start with just two wins through their first six games, but they have since reeled off four consecutive victories over West Virginia, Iowa State, Texas Tech and most recently, TCU. Kansas State became bowl eligible as place kicker Jack Cantele sent a 41-yard field goal attempt through the uprights with three seconds remaining to lift the team to a 33-31 decision over the Horned Frogs. Coach Bill Snyder took over sole possession of second place on the career Big 12 wins list. He improved to 101-68-1 in Big 12 conference action and ironically left Switzer in third place on the all-time leaderboard.
Oklahoma owns a 71-18-4 record versus KSU. The Wildcats ended a five-game series losing slide in 2012 as they rallied to pick up a 24-19 win in Norman.. The Sooners have won nine consecutive games in a rematch against opponents they lost to the previous season.
The Sooners have the second best rushing offense in the conference with an average of 236.4 yards per outing. Oklahoma's rushing attack was unstoppable last week as it compiled 405 yards on the ground to set a new record for the Stoops era. Damien Williams finished with a team-best 128 yards and scored on two of his 10 carries. Trevor Knight also registered a rushing touchdown to go along with 123 yards on just 10 totes. Brennan Clay took seven hand offs to add 86 yards and another score while Oklahoma finished the game with an average gain of 9.2 yards per rush.
"They do a nice job up front to make some of those things happen. Probably what goes somewhat unnoticed is that against Iowa State, in the second half of that ball game, they had three snaps for 204 yards," said Snyder about the incoming opponent's attack. "To go the long distances with the big plays certainly speaks volumes about their offensive line, but it tells you they also have wide receivers that can block downfield to give those backs a chance downfield as well. They are all invested in it. They have 11 guys heavily invested in that phase of their game, the running game. That does not mean they cannot throw it though because they can."
Clay (643) and Williams (553) are ranked eighth and 10th in the Big 12 in rushing yards, respectively. Four other Sooners have accounted for 100 yards or more on the ground on the year as well. Blake Bell has started eight games under center and completed just under 60 percent of his attempts for 1,508 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. The redshirt junior quarterback has a pair of reliable targets in Jalen Saunders (44 rec. 520 yards) and Sterling Shepard (33 rec. 391 yards), who have reeled in five touchdown catches apiece.
Oklahoma's rushing attack is complemented nicely by its stingy defensive unit that ranks 13th nationally in total yards allowed per game at 326.4. Last week, the Cyclones were limited to 291 total yards of offense as the Sooners registered a pair of interceptions, six sacks and nine tackles for loss. Frank Shannon compiled eight total stops and a pair of sacks. Shannon has anchored the defense throughout the season en route to a team-high 76 tackles.
"It will be a difficult task," head coach Bob Stoops said of facing Kansas State on the road. "They have really played well in the past four weeks. They've won four straight games. They're moving the football really well with two different quarterbacks. They really have two different offenses with the quarterbacks in some aspects"
The Wildcats' dual QB system has been unstoppable during the course of their winning streak to help the team outscore its opponents by an average of 21 ppg during that span. Snyder's usage of both Jake Waters and Daniel Sams creates a balance and keeps the opposing defenses guessing. In last week's win, KSU overcame a slow start to score on its final four possessions and racked up 411 yards of total offense.
Waters has connected on 61 percent of his throws and although he splits the snaps with Sams, he is averaging 169 passing yards per game to rank fourth in the league. Sams and tailback John Hubert are contributing 78.4 and 73.1 yards per game to rank sixth and seventh in rushing average in the Big 12, respectively.
In addition to the multiple quarterbacks, the Sooners will have to figure out a way to stop Tyler Lockett, who is pacing the conference with 131.3 all- purpose yards per outing. Lockett played a huge role in last week's thrilling victory over TCU as he tallied eight receptions for 123 yards, including a 74- yard touchdown catch and added 74 kick return yards.
The Wildcats' defensive unit also made a big impact. The Horned Frogs finished with 350 total yards with only 101 coming on the ground. KSU also registered a pair of takeaways, including Blake Slaughter's interception in the first quarter that gave the offense a short field, which they overcame in five plays to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. Slaughter has registered a team-high 79 stops to rank fourth in the Big 12 in tackles.. Ryan Mueller has recorded 10.5 sacks, which is three more than any other player in the conference.
Both these teams lost to Baylor and Texas, but the Wildcats were competitive in their setbacks, while Oklahoma was routed. KSU took a while to find its formula for success, but it has been unstoppable since late October. The Sooners could escape victorious if their offensive line continues to clear huge holes, but out-firing the Wildcats will not be an easy task by any means.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas State 38, Oklahoma 35