When the Oklahoma Sooners last visited the Kansas State Wildcats in 2017, the two teams staged a compelling shootout that saw OU escape with a 42-35 victory. It took a Heisman Trophy-caliber effort from legendary quarterback Baker Mayfield to keep the Crimson and Cream's College Football Playoff hopes alive.
Much like this weekend's matchup, the Sooners were heavy favorites when the squads squared off two years ago. Although Mayfield is gone, OU has a new star signal-caller in Jalen Hurts. This OU team also boasts a rapidly improving defense, likely making it the program's most complete edition in more than a decade.
First-year head coach Chris Klieman is still putting his own stamp on the KSU program, but the Wildcats are playing fundamentally sound football that would bring a tear to ex-KSU head coach Bill Snyder's eye. Klieman may want to pick Snyder's brain about how to slow down an undefeated OU team that is starting to hit its stride — fundamentally sound football alone won't get it done on Saturday.
Oklahoma at Kansas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -19
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
The Sooners feasted on West Virginia's overwhelmed defense last week in 52-14 romp that saw OU compile 560 yards of total offense on 59 plays. The Wildcats should put up more of a fight this week.
KSU leads the Big 12 in scoring defense at 18.7 points per game. The Wildcats are especially proficient against the pass, ranking second in the conference in yards per attempt allowed at 6.1. OU quarterback Jalen Hurts and wide receivers CeeDee Lamb and Charleston Rambo will probably find the sledding pretty tough against guys like Wayne Jones and Denzel Goolsby in the K-State secondary.
On the other hand, opponents have run at will at times versus the Wildcats this year. For example, Oklahoma State popped 8.5 yards per rush on a hefty 44 attempts in the Cowboys' win over KSU earlier this season. With OU's offensive line operating at full strength, look for the Sooners to have more than their fair share of success on the ground in Manhattan.
When Kansas State Has the Ball
K-State has about as much of a meat-and-potatoes offense as you'll find in college football. Chris Klieman has the Wildcats running the ball nearly twice as often as they throw it. And if you don't pass it, you can't throw interceptions: QB Skylar Thompson has been picked off just one time all year.
KSU has a shot to find some gaps against an aggressive OU defense that is susceptible to big run plays. Workhorse running back James Gilbert should expect to see plenty of carries this weekend in an effort to maintain possession of the ball and shorten the game.
The Sooners may deploy more of a traditional 4-3 defense to fortify their run defense with strong-side linebacker David Ugwoegbu replacing nickelback Brendan Radley-Hiles. Would the Wildcats take the bait and go to the air? With KSU receiver Malik Knowles healthy that has to sound more appealing to Klieman.
An under-the-radar aspect of this matchup: KSU's special teams. The Wildcats excel in that phase, which forces opponents to go on long drives to reach the end zone. That probably won't decide this game, but it could impact the final margin.
Look for OU to lean on its ground attack early to open up opportunities for Jalen Hurts to do some damage with his arm. OU's star QB may put the ball up for grabs a time or two — it's up to the Wildcats to make him pay. Without a major advantage in turnover margin, K-State doesn't have much hope of pulling off an upset.
KSU's style tends to produce shorter, low-scoring games. Given that OU has an open date next week, Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley probably wouldn't object to leaving Manhattan with a tidy, but unremarkable, win. In other words, don't expect any fireworks.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Kansas State 14
— 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.