Sooners look for revenge against the reeling Wildcats
Opening week couldn't have gone much differently for the Oklahoma Sooners and Kansas State Wildcats. While OU was blasting the outclassed Missouri State Bears from the FCS ranks, head coach Chris Klieman's team fell to the Arkansas State Red Wolves of the Sun Belt.
Does that raise the likelihood that Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley and his Sooners will underestimate their visitors on Saturday? After Kansas State's upset over OU a year ago in Manhattan, don't count on it.
More important than motivation, however, OU needs to see how its untested quarterback prodigy holds up against a solid defense in the Sooners' first game of Big 12 play.
Kansas State at Oklahoma
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -28
When Kansas State Has the Ball
The Wildcats brought back woefully inexperienced personnel on the offensive side of the ball. It showed in their first game of the season. The Wildcats' struggles were particularly acute up front, as the offensive line couldn't move around Arkansas State's defenders well enough to create openings in the running game. Even excluding a combined 36 yards lost on two sacks and an errant shotgun snap, Kansas State only ran for just 3.5 yards per attempt against what should have been an overmatched opponent.
The Wildcats did show against the Red Wolves that they have some weapons in the passing game. Quarterback Skylar Thompson has a stable of big, strong targets at his disposal, including receiver Chabastin Taylor and tight end Briley Moore.
Oklahoma doesn't have much size in its secondary, so watch how the Wildcats try to exploit the physical disparities in those matchups.
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
Despite changeover at the skill positions, the OU offense looked remarkably similar in the Sooners' season opener to the efficient attacks of days gone by. Notably, quarterback Spencer Rattler showed off the type of arm strength and precision to suggest that he may be the most talented passer in the program's history.
The Sooners will challenge every opponent this season to stop them from stretching the field with the pass and bullying defensive fronts with a veteran offensive line. That puts pressure on the Kansas State safeties to help out in coverage down the field and appropriately diagnose situations in which they are needed for run support. The Wildcats may opt to play soft coverage schemes to prevent big plays from Rattler and his receiving corps. Tightening up when OU gets inside the red zone becomes key if that's the plan.
K-State defensive end Wyatt Hubert could play a significant role in this contest if he can win enough one-on-one battles coming off the edge against OU's offensive tackles. Don't be surprised if Lincoln Riley leaves an extra blocker around the line of scrimmage to keep his QB protected in throwing situations.
The Wildcats appeared discombobulated in their season-opening loss to Arkansas State, but it would be a mistake for the Sooners to expect to see the same Kansas State team take the field on Saturday. K-State has enough weapons for Skylar Thompson to punish the OU defense, especially given the depleted state of the Sooners on the DL.
Chris Klieman will probably try to maul OU's undersized defensive personnel with a patient rushing attack. Add in some one-on-one throws to physical receivers and timely QB draws for Thompson. Maybe that keeps the Wildcats close enough to make things interesting in the fourth quarter.
Finding ways to slow down OU's offense won't be so easy. Spencer Rattler appeared intent on finding receivers deep in patterns versus Missouri State, which may mean he forces some throws into coverage or leaves himself prone to the Kansas State pass rush. Forcing those mistakes from the first-year starter is a must for the Wildcats to have a shot at winning.
K-State can probably keep this contest from getting out of hand, but a win seems unlikely.
Prediction: Oklahoma 38, Kansas State 17
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.