The big story heading into this weekend's matchup between the Oklahoma Sooners and Iowa State Cyclones would seem to be OU's staggering collapse in its Big 12 opener. The Sooners allowed the Kansas State Wildcats to come storming back from a deficit of 21 points deep in the second half, precipitated in large part by critical OU errors.
The Cyclones' bounce-back win over the TCU Horned Frogs last week shouldn't go unnoticed, though. Iowa State rebounded from a stunning loss of its own in its season opener versus Louisiana to knock off TCU in a hard-fought road win.
The mental state of the two teams may go a long way towards determining the winner when they hit the field in Ames this weekend.
Oklahoma at Iowa State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -6.5
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
The struggles of OU's offensive line last week constituted the biggest surprise in the team's upset loss. In addition to a deluge of sloppy penalties, the OU O-line got beat often enough by Kansas State's edge rushers to fluster quarterback Spencer Rattler in the pocket. Meanwhile, the Sooners are averaging 3.63 yards per rush through two games, a decline of nearly 40 percent from a year ago.
Can Iowa State control the line of scrimmage committing extra defenders to run support? In the past, that might have seemed like an absurd question. An effort like the one put forward by the OU O-line last week would suggest so.
On the plus side for the Sooners, new contributors have emerged in the passing game. For example, freshman receiver Marvin Mims currently leads the team with three touchdown catches, while sophomore slot Drake Stoops had three receptions for 93 yards and a score in his season debut last week. Rattler also has identified a reliable outlet in the middle of the field in tight end Austin Stogner, who caught five balls for 83 yards against the Wildcats.
When Iowa State Has the Ball
Brock Purdy was seen as one of the country's top quarterbacks prior to the season. Surprisingly, he has played shaky football in the first two games. He is currently averaging a paltry 6.1 yards per pass attempt and has thrown just one touchdown pass.
Facing the Oklahoma defense has cured what ails numerous passers in recent years, however. Last season, Purdy tossed five touchdown passes against the Sooners. Kansas State's Skylar Thompson bombed OU for 334 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-25 attempts last week. His completions included gains of 77 and 78 yards on throws in back-to-back drives in the third quarter.
The Sooners will bring defensive coordinator Alex Grinch's customary pressure packages on Saturday in an effort to overwhelm Iowa State's remade offensive line. If the big uglies hold up against OU's blitzes, Purdy should have time to find receivers like big tight end Charlie Kolar for chunk plays. Presumably, the Cyclones will also make a point of trying to induce confusion and coverage busts in the OU defense by using motion and shifts.
Lost in Oklahoma's loss to Kansas State was the fact that a lot had to go wrong for the Sooners to blow that game. OU turned it over four times and had a punt blocked in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats scored touchdowns twice in the fourth quarter on drives that covered fewer than 40 yards.
Perhaps the Sooners are still reeling from such a monumental collapse. It seems equally likely that the loss could sharpen their focus for the Cyclones.
Iowa State has every reason to believe it can hang with Oklahoma after battling the defending Big 12 champ for four quarters in 2019 in a 42-41 loss. Will Spencer Rattler be as confident after taking so much fire last week? Provided that OU's young quarterback is in the right frame of mind, the Sooners should get back on track.
Prediction: Oklahoma 35, Iowa State 24
— 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.