#13 Kansas State @ #5 Oklahoma
- Game Time: 6:50
- TV: FOX
- Sirius Channel: 92 (KSU) 85 (OU)
- Announcers: Gus Johnson, Charles Davis
- The Spread: Oklahoma -14.5
The Lowdown: The Wildcats head to Norman looking to avenge one of their three loses from last season, and it was a bad one at that. The last time we saw these two teams on the same field, the Sooners were running up and down the field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on their way to 35 straight second half points after leading by only six points at the break.
Was last year's second half a precursor to what we can expect Saturday night? Possibly, but don't count on it. The Wildcats return the bulk of the talent from last year's team who are a year wiser, a year stronger, and likely a better overall than last year's squad.
That doesn't mean the Wildcats have much margin for error, however. Oklahoma has the athletes on both sides of the ball that can make it tough on any team in the country and will certainly provide a test both schematically and athletically that Kansas State hasn't seen yet this year.
Even though the bulk of the talent in Saturday night's contest will be standing on the Oklahoma sideline, the jury is still out on what type of team the Sooners are or will become. After last season's up-and-down performance in a year when they were the odds on favorite to win the national title, there were plenty of questions yet to be answered coming into the season and those questions only grew louder after OU struggled to put away UTEP to start the season.
Landry Jones is still trying to quiet his doubters after two so-so performances to start the year. He does look to be developing some good chemistry with Kenny Stills, however, who has 16 catches through two games and is a matchup OU will look to exploit on Saturday night.
Even though they feature one of the best cornerbacks in the Big 12 - Nigel Malone - Kansas State's secondary has been spotty at best in 2012. Their opponents have completed 67.2% of their passes thus far highlighted by North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson who found a connection on 25 of 28 passes last weekend. If Derek Thompson can do it, you had better believe Landry Jones can do it.
The Sooners' biggest weapon on offense may be the emergence of junior college transfer running back Damian Williams. Williams has rushed for 259 yards in two games and even though the Sooners will still give a fair share of carries to Dom Whaley and Brennan Clay, Williams is a guy that could show the country exactly how talented he is on Saturday night.
Oklahoma, Keys to Victory: You can read any of the previews that are out there on this game and it will say OU has to stop Collin Klein. That is true. KSU's offense completely revolves around their senior quarterback. There are no if-and-or-buts about it.
That being said, the biggest key in my mind for OU is to play mistake free football. That means no turnovers, few penalties, and no missed assignments. There is no team in the country that executes their schemes offensively any better than Kansas State - plain and simple - none. Other teams have better players and they know what's coming but they still can stop it. That is Bill Snyder.
Watching Kansas State block their quarterback power run game against Miami was a thing of beauty at times. The Hurricane linebackers knew what was coming and were in position to make a play but before they could, they were laying on the ground as Klein ran down the field. There's no question Oklahoma has the defenders to stop Klein, but slip up just once or twice, and KSU will make them pay with a few big runs.
Kansas State, Keys to Victory: Oklahoma will pick up their yards with Jones, Stills and the rest of the OU receiving corp in the passing game. The key for the Wildcats though is slowing the running game on first and second down. If the Sooners have success on the early downs with Williams and Whaley, it could be a very long night for the Wildcats.
K-State did a great job of it against Miami holding Mike James and Duke Johnson to 40 yards rushing which is a big reason they won by 39 points. If they can hold the Sooners to somewhere the range of 120 yards rushing, they'll have a good shot at winning but those chances go down exponentially the higher that number gets.
What's the wildcard Saturday night? The return game. Both teams feature fabulous kick return men. Oklahoma has Penn State transfer Justin Brown who had a 62 yard punt return against Florida A&M. Kansas State counters with Tyler Lockett who took a kick off back 96 yards against North Texas that sparked the Wildcats who had struggled up until that point. If either of them can get lose Saturday night, it could be the difference in the game.
The Synopsis and Prediction: There are plenty of people that are writing Kansas State off. Bob Stoops has had two weeks to prepare for the Wildcats which surely works in their favor, not to mention their overall talent level is simply better. I'd be careful about writing Kansas State off, however. These are exactly the types of games Snyder wins far more than he loses.
That's not to say Oklahoma won't win, but Snyder has one of the better teams he's had at Kansas State and they will figure out a way to stay in the game. Their strong up front on offense and have a quarterback who won't make mistakes. Defensively, there are playmakers at all three levels.
Kansas State is a team rarely beats itself with last year's Cotton Bowl being one of the exceptions. They took on a 10-2 Arkansas team whose only losses were to Alabama and LSU. The Wildcats had two first half turnovers, dropped four passes, had several costly penalties, and gave up a punt return touchdown and still only lost 29-16. That Arkansas team was every bit as good as this Oklahoma team for those looking for comparisons.
So what's going to happen? Oklahoma's balance on offense prevails. Most of the focus on OU's offense has been on Jones the last several seasons and for good reason. But it's their running game that is going to the difference with this team going forward. Whaley is bouncing back nicely from his knee injury and they look to have a home run hitter in Damien Williams. That in itself will help Jones as much as anything get back to the level he was playing at early last season.
Kansas State will give the Sooners all they can handle in the conference opener, but they'll come up a big play or two short. Oklahoma 28 Kansas State 20.