The Iowa State Cyclones and Oklahoma Sooners have a recent history of hard-fought games. It includes a split last season that saw ISU capture the regular-season meeting, 37-30 in Ames. OU got revenge when the teams played in the Big 12 Championship Game in December, winning 27-21 to claim a fifth straight crown.
Is that enough to keep the Sooners (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) from sulking in the wake of a loss at Baylor last week that crushed their hopes of going undefeated? Complicating matters, OU has a date with Oklahoma State the week after in the latest edition of the Bedlam rivalry.
Here's what to watch when the Cyclones (6-4, 4-3) visit Norman for OU's final home game of the 2021 season.
Iowa State at No. 13 Oklahoma
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 20 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -4
When Iowa State Has the Ball
The Cyclones have followed the same formula for years, it seems. As one of the nation's elite running backs, Breece Hall provides a tough foundation for the ISU offense. He has suffered through some disappointing performances, including rushing for 51 yards on 18 carries last week in a loss to Texas Tech. Hall rarely stays bottled up for long, though.
The Sooners had a mixed showing against the Baylor ground game last week. While the Bears ran for 297 yards on 47 carries, Baylor did most of its damage on a handful of plays that caught Oklahoma's defensive front in over-pursuit. Notably, OU had to contend with Baylor's sturdy quarterback Gerry Bohanon, who carried the ball nine times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. If ISU QB Brock Purdy can present a similar threat to the OU defense, Hall may find extra opportunities to get loose.
ISU tight end Charlie Kolar, a native of Norman, has terrorized OU defenses in recent years. He will unquestionably want to put on a show in his final appearance in his hometown. OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch needs to have a plan to keep Kolar in check.
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
Watching the Sooners fumble around against Baylor last week was jarring. OU managed a measly 260 yards of total offense versus the Bears, who forced freshman QB Caleb Williams into a series of crippling mistakes over the course of the game. Things got so bad for Williams that head coach Lincoln Riley gave backup Spencer Rattler two series in the second half. At this point, Riley is clearly trying to balance Williams' considerable talents against the reality that the rookie hasn't had much time to prepare.
The Cyclones play sound, opportunistic defense against the run and the pass. That means OU doesn't have room for the dangerous throws that produced two interceptions last week. Moving the ball consistently against ISU may require OU executing better in the short and intermediate passing game, along with finding ways to get Williams running more.
ISU head coach Matt Campbell and defensive coordinator Jon Heacock saw the same things everyone else did last week, so look for the Cyclones to make a point of keeping Williams contained on the ground. ISU may try to play loose zone coverage on the back end to prevent OU from throwing deep. That will turn up the pressure on Williams to concentrate on moving the ball through the air in the range of seven to 10 yards.
When Riley switched over at QB from Rattler to Williams at halftime of OU's comeback win over Texas last month, he had to realize it would come with a few lows to go along with spectacular highs this season. The Sooners saw some lows last week. Count on Riley drawing up some early plays to help his QB bounce back.
Baylor rattled Williams with some aggressive looks on defense early. ISU may try some exotic blitzes early to confuse the freshman QB. Riley may look to counter with some quick throws to put the ball in the hands of playmakers like Marvin Mims and Mario Williams at receiver.
For the Cyclones, methodical drives on offense will be key. Between Hall, the tight ends and receiver Xavier Hutchinson, ISU will have opportunities to use its physicality to bully the OU defense. So long as Purdy avoids one of the periodic meltdowns that have plagued him throughout his career, ISU should have a shot to win this game late.
The Sooners do get the benefit of playing at home in the final appearance at Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium for a number of veterans who have won lots of games in their careers. Assuming Williams settles down back in front of a friendly crowd, it should propel OU to a tight win.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Iowa State 28
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— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.