Oklahoma Rush Offense vs. ISU Rush Defense
The Sooners rushed for 343 yards against Texas and 15 yards in last week’s 30-13 home loss to Notre Dame. O-line woes? Maybe. Damien Williams is a solid back averaging over 80 yards per game. ISU’s rush defense is ranked 37th nationally — and fifth in the Big 12, allowing 135.1 yards per game. Advantage: ISU.
Oklahoma Pass Offense vs. ISU Pass Defense
Sooners quarterback Landry Jones’ NFL Draft stock is down, but his numbers remain impressive. He’s tops in OU history in wins (34); passing yards (14,387); touchdown passes (105) and two other categories. His top target, Kenny Stills, has 45 catches this season for 557 yards and four touchdowns. Advantage: Oklahoma.
ISU Rush Offense vs. Oklahoma Rush Defense
The Sooners can be had on the ground, as they’ve given up 185 or more yards three times — and in two straight weeks. ISU’s James White proved to be a stabilizing force in last week’s win over Baylor, contributing 42 yards on 10 carries while Shontrelle Johnson racked up 73, including a 19-yard jaunt. (Slight) Advantage: ISU.
ISU Pass Offense vs. Oklahoma Pass Defense
Cyclone quarterback Steele Jantz faces one of the smartest and athletic secondaries in major college football. The Sooners rank fifth nationally in pass efficiency defense (96.18 rating) and 11th in pass defense (166.7 yards). Jantz has completed 61.7 percent of his passes, up from 53.3 in 2011. (Slight) Advantage: Oklahoma.
ISU punter Kirby Van Der Kamp shines almost weekly, ranking second in the Big 12 at 42.9 yards per boot. Kicker Edwin Arceo better become more consistent on touchbacks. The Sooners rank third nationally in kick return average at 29.1 yards per opportunity. Brennan Clay is particularly dangerous. Advantage: Oklahoma.
Can Jake Knott lead by example simply by being a deeply engaged bystander? It’s foolish to ever underestimate the all-American linebacker’s potential impact on winning and losing for the Cyclones — even though he’s out for the season because of a shoulder tear, so check the “yes” box on that one. Still, moral support only goes so far. ISU will need even bigger contributions from linebackers such as A.J. Klein (2011 conference co-defensive player of the year), Jeremiah George and Knott’s listed backup, Jevohn Miller. The Cyclones will likely go nickel a lot more often, putting playmaking hybrid safety Deon Broomfield front and center. History favors the Sooners. Oklahoma is 19-0 under coach Bob Stoops in regular season games “immediately” following a loss. The Sooners have also won 13 straight games against the Cyclones, including a 7-0 mark under Stoops. (Slight) Advantage: Oklahoma.
ISU will win if … The defense hounds Jones enough to create some desperate throws and Jantz reprises last week’s calm-looking, patient performance. The Cyclones also need to win the turnover battle again. They’re one of four Big 12 teams on the plus side of the ledger in conference play and safety Durrell Givens leads the nation in forced fumbles with five.
Oklahoma will win if … it can establish a running game. Trey Millard, the touted fullback, can play a key role here — as a blocker, play-action pass catcher and ball carrier. Mostly in the first two categories. The Sooners are saltier on defense than last week’s loss to Notre Dame showed. They sit among the top 17 in the country in total defense and scoring defense.
Prediction: Oklahoma 27, ISU 17
Three things to watch
ISU’s Jake Knott. See intangibles. Knott’s the heart and soul of the Cyclone defense, and now is its water boy, cheerleader and advisor. He’ll be valuable in each of those roles — particularly for relatively inexperienced linebackers such as Jevohn Miller and Matt Morton, a special teams ace who has seen little down-and-distance work.
ISU’s Ernst Brun. He continues to make plays, particularly with his hands and his feet. Brun’s bugaboo: Downfield blocking. He’s a work in progress there, with the keyword being progress. Brun already has grabbed as many touchdown passes in a season (four) as any Cyclone tight end in the past 36 years.
OU’s Blake Bell. They call him the Belldozer and if ISU sees a lot of him, that’s trouble. The so-called quarterback enters the game in red-zone situations and does what his nickname suggests: Bowls over opposing defenders. Bell’s rushed for nine touchdowns this season — including a four-score effort against Texas.
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