Bill Snyder and his former assistant Bob Stoops have always had that whole teacher-pupil dynamic between them. This year, however, their teams couldn’t be much different.
The Sooners come into their meeting with the Wildcats playing dangerous football. On the one hand, they can score points with the best of teams around the country. On the other, they’ve needed all that firepower to offset some terrible decisions and all-around sloppy play.
Kansas State is winning with a meat-and-potatoes approach built around arguably the top defense in the Big 12 (insert joke here). Per usual, Snyder is springing traps for his opponents and capitalizing when they turn the ball over.
The Wildcats have snuck up on the Sooners in their last two meetings at Owen Field, helping to put a major dent in OU’s supposed home-field advantage. With Stoops’ team riding high after last week’s win over rival Texas, KSU is trying to finagle another opportunistic road win.
Kansas State at Oklahoma
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Oklahoma -11
1. Ball Security
Kansas State enjoys one of the healthiest turnover margins in the country this season at 1.2 per game, tied for eighth nationally. Much of the Wildcats’ success lies in their ability to protect the ball: They have fumbled just twice all year, losing one.
Conversely, Oklahoma has put the ball on the ground 10 times so far this year and lost it seven times. Overall, the Sooners are turning it over more than two times per game. K-State surely would appreciate such generosity.
2. Can OU Run the Ball?
If the Sooners can run successfully on KSU, they’d be the first this year. The Wildcats are allowing a scant 2.75 yards per rushing attempt this season. They’ve held three of five opponents under 100 yards rushing so far.
KSU will face its stiffest test of the entire season on Saturday, however. Lately, OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has demonstrated more of a commitment to his backfield combo of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, who are popping off 5.4 and 6.5 yards per carry, respectively.
If the Sooners are able to pound the ball all afternoon, the Wildcats have no chance of winning this game.
3. Can Kansas State Throw?
Passing the ball isn’t exactly KSU’s thing. The Wildcats are averaging all of 155 yards passing on just 12 completions per game. After throwing the ball 41 times against Stanford, K-State has dialed back its dropbacks significantly.
Quarterback Jesse Ertz and his receivers have to figure out a way to make OU defend them honestly. A one-dimensional offense won’t get very far against the Sooners, who stop the run fairly well.
Through five games, Oklahoma has proved that the greatest threat to its success is itself. Even against Ohio State, cutting back on a few self-inflicted errors might have led to a far tighter contest.
The Wildcats are usually content to allow their opponents to beat themselves. However, unlike some of Snyder’s more recent teams, Kansas State lacks the one or two offensive standouts required to make timely plays and capitalize on opportunities afforded by the other team. That’s trouble against an OU offense that has proven to be fairly relentless of late.
K-State’s deliberate pace and bend-but-don’t-break D will keep the team at least within striking distance before the half. An offensive barrage early in the second half by OU will ultimately overwhelm the Wildcats, though.
Prediction: Oklahoma 34, Kansas State 20
— 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.