There is not a team or a head coach in the Big 12 Conference that Oklahoma's Bob Stoops respects more than his opponent this Saturday. Bill Snyder, dean of Big 12 football coaches, brings his undefeated and 13th ranked Kansas State Wildcats to Norman, where just about every Oklahoma opponent in the Stoops era has come to die, to do battle with the country's No. 5 team in the Sooners.
Stoops was the defensive coordinator at K-State under Snyder, along with his brother Mike, when he accepted the offer to come to Oklahoma. Snyder also was on the coaching staff at Iowa when Bob played there as a defensive back in the early 1980s. As an opposing coach, Stoops hasn't been nearly as kind to his former coach.
Stoops' OU teams have a 7-1 record against Snyder's teams, the lone loss coming as an upset in the 2003 Big 12 Championship game, when Kansas State turned back then No. 1 and undefeated Oklahoma 35-7. The Sooners have won the last five meetings between the two teams and eight of the last nine.
Snyder knows that the Wildcats will have to bring their game for a full four quarters if they want to beat the Sooners and especially in front of a hostile, crimson-clad crowd. A year ago in Manhattan Kansas State didn't show up after a closely fought first half. The Sooners pushed across the final nine points in the first half and then rolled off 35 more unanswered second-half points to hand the Cats a 58-17 defeat and what would be their worst loss of the season.
Saturday night's contest should be a battle of wills. Oklahoma, with a renewed multi-back running attack and high-powered passing game behind fourth-year starter Landry Jones at quarterback, wants to operate up-tempo in hurry-up style, hoping to catch the defense off guard and out of position. The Sooners execute the no-huddle offense as well as anyone in the country, and they have the offensive weapons to put up points fast and often.
Kansas State, on the other hand, is more comfortable playing more deliberately on offense. The Cats mostly like to run the ball, using the pass when necessary, and sustaining long drives that control the clock, put a strain on the opponent's defensive team and keep the other team's offense off the field.
In a nutshell, the team that is the most successful in executing its offensive style of play is going to come out on top at the final gun in the Big 12's marquee game this weekend.
Behind senior quarterback Collin Klein and running back John Hubert, this K-State team has built its reputation on power football, with both Klein and Hubert totaling over 200 yards on the ground in the Wildcats three wins. The Kansas State rushing attack ranks 18th in the country, averaging 251.7 yards a game.
Oklahoma, which typically features one of country's leading.passing attacks, has added a strong running game to give more balance to its offense through the early going this season. The Sooners have actually out-rushed the run-oriented Wildcats so far this season, averaging 277 yards a game. Most of OU success running the ball has been the work of junior-college recruit Damien Williams, who is averaging 129 yards a game, including touchdown runs of 68 and 89 yards.
Kansas State is hoping to put the clamps on Oklahoma's rejuvenated running game and literally put the pressure on OU's Jones, challenging him to beat them through the air. Jones has been sacked four times already this season, by teams far less talented than Kansas State, after suffering only 10 sacks all of last season. This will set up two key positional matchups in the game: the K-State defensive line vs. the Oklahoma offensive front, and Jones vs. the K-State secondary, which has virtually the same personnel as last season, when Jones torched the Wildcat defense for 505 yards through the air and five touchdowns.
Another key to the game will be how well the Oklahoma defensive line and linebackers are able to contain the dual threat running ability of KSU's Klein and Hubert. Special teams also could be a big factor, and the edge here has to go to Kansas State and the huge return threat the Cats have in speedster Tyler Lockett.
A sellout crowd of over 85,000, OU's 82nd consecutive sellout, is expected for the game Saturday night at Gaylord Family-OU Memorial Stadium, where the Sooners' home record under Stoops is an incredible 78-3 over the last 14 seasons. Oklahoma also is 13-0 in its opening Big 12 home game with Stoops on the sidelines and 14-0 against ranked opponents who come to Norman.
Kansas State poses one of the bigger challenges the Sooners will face this season, but the fact that this game is being played in Norman, where Stoops' teams almost never lose, the advantage scale tips in favor of Oklahoma. Game prediction: Oklahoma 33, Kansas State 20.
Other Big 12 Games This Weekend (Week 4)
(Projected winner in bold face)
Baylor @ University of Louisiana-Monroe (Friday)
Virginia @ TCU
Maryland @ West Virginia
Kansas @ Northern Illinois
Byes: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Texas
Last week: 8-0
For the season: 24--2
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