The Oklahoma Sooners have beaten every team in the Big 12 in the last two years, except for the Kansas State Wildcats.
KSU will be working on its third consecutive win over the Sooners when the two teams meet in Manhattan on Saturday. Given how OU (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) has looked to start the season, the Wildcats (3-1, 0-1) have a shot at pulling off another upset. The sixth-ranked Sooners are undefeated through four games, but they haven't impressed in doing it.
Here's what to watch when the two teams square off this weekend.
No. 6 Oklahoma at Kansas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -10.5
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
The Sooners are averaging 38.8 points per game so far this year, which seems close to its 2020 average of 43. However, they've scored 23 and 16 in the last two contests against Nebraska and West Virginia, respectively. In other words, OU's offense isn't what it used to be.
Or is it? OU head coach Lincoln Riley has said he thinks the Sooners are close to getting back to their high-scoring ways. That would involve unlocking quarterback Spencer Rattler and the passing game. OU is generating 7.6 yards per pass attempt this season, down from 9.6 last year.
Kansas State isn't the best opponent for curing what ails an offense. The Wildcats are allowing 19.5 points per game and just five yards per play. They did show some cracks last week in a 31-20 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Notably, OSU passed the ball at will as Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns.
When Kansas State Has the Ball
The offensive outlook in this game for KSU relies heavily on who is behind center. Veteran starter Skylar Thompson went down with a leg injury in the second game of the season and missed the next two contests. KSU head coach Chris Klieman indicated this week it's "not likely" Thompson will take the field against OU. Thompson has massacred the Sooners in each of their last two meetings, so his absence would represent a huge loss for the home team.
Thompson's backup at QB, Will Howard, left last week's game versus Oklahoma State with an injury. That puts his availability up in the air this week. If Howard can't go, it leaves third-stringer Jaren Lewis as the next option. No matter who is playing QB, it sounds like running back Deuce Vaughn can expect a heavy workload.
Vaughn will be running into the teeth of a defense that ranks 11th nationally in yards allowed per rush. Trying to get the ball to Vaughn and explosive receiver Malik Knowles through the air might be a better option for KSU against an OU defense that is carrying the team this season.
Oklahoma seems to have a lot riding on this game. The Sooners want to end their losing streak to KSU; meanwhile, Rattler and the rest of the OU offense need to break out of their current rut. Even a lackluster win would heighten the tension around a program that was touted as a national title contender in the preseason.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the situation at QB means they may not give OU their best shot on Saturday. No matter who is calling the signals for KSU, count on Klieman serving up a healthy diet of the ground game. If the Wildcats can lull the OU defense to sleep with the run, it could set up some opportunistic shots with play action.
In the end, OU's scoring slowdown may not matter much against the shorthanded Wildcats. Getting into the end zone will be a chore for KSU, which can't afford any mistake against the aggressive OU defense.
Prediction: Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 17
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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.