Oklahoma took a beating in the Red River Rivalry and looks to rebound. It won’t be easy against Bill Snyder and Kansas State, which gave TCU fits before finally losing late.
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1. Motivation and attitude: The Sooners found out they are not good enough to play without a definitive sense of urgency as evidenced in last week’s disappointing albeit not overly surprising loss to Texas. That’s history and history can’t be changed so focusing on the now is all that matters. I see the Sooners playing with intensity Saturday and cringe to think what might happen with this season if they don’t.
2. Offensive line: The young O-Line has to continue to learn and improve as their current level of play won’t get them to the Promised Land. This unit is well coached and they have potential, but potential won’t buy the BBQ Sauce long term. To compete in the Big 12 and the myriad of video game offenses in it, the ability to control the football and utilize the clock is imperative. This concept starts with the offensive line. It’s still a game about blocking and tackling.
3. Run the ball: Somehow, some way Bob Stoops’ Sooners must rediscover their running game and better utilize Perine and Mixon. Perhaps throwing the ball, including to TE Mark Andrews, sets up the run but nonetheless the running game has to become a more vital threat than it was in the Cotton Bowl. Without a running game hitting on all cylinders, winning in Manhattan becomes even more challenging. It’s a guarantee that K-State will attempt to replicate Texas’ success and run the ball Saturday and why not?
4. Tackling: Along with blocking, this is one of the two most important aspects, with ball protection right there, in the game. The Sooners had a poor tackling game against Texas, but one has to hope that the tackling woes will be isolated to one game. This team has plenty of defensive playmakers who need to wrap up the opposition and take them aggressively to the ground. "Kill Shots" are nice for TV highlights but not always so much on the field.
5. Little Apple success: Yes, OU has had success in Manhattan over the years, Coach Stoops is 5-0 at K-State, but what does that mean for Saturday? Nothing. Different team and a different year but the same Bill Snyder coached squad. Snyder will inevitably go "old school" at times, especially with his offensive play calling, which can be unique to say the least. How OU defends KSU QB Joe Hubener, who gained 111 yards rushing against TCU last week, is a key to this game. The run/pass option that KSU utilizes isn’t easy to defend.
6. Special teams: Snyder’s teams are always opportunistic and feature strong special teams play evidenced by the fact that they lead the Big 12 in kickoff returns. Special teams play is crucial every week but seems to be even more magnified on the road. The difference in this closely contested league game might well be whose special team group plays better. Nothing silences a rabid home crowd better than a big play by the visitors on special teams.
7. Verticality: Keeping QB Baker Mayfield upright is a must as well as allowing No. 6 to be able to throw the ball vertically down field. Mayfield was punished last week in Dallas and the player who is the key to the Sooners offense cannot afford to be abused again in Manhattan. Mayfield getting rid of the ball quicker at times will help all involved.
K-State has the ability to monopolize the clock, which OU can’t allow to happen. Third down conversations become more of a focus on both sides of the ball. The Sooner defense must find a way to get the Wildcats off the field, while the OU offense must find more consistency and diversity while moving the chains. OU is favored by 4.5 points in what is being billed as a "must-win" game as it relates to the Big 12 race and onto the Final Four Playoffs. This one will be a legit Slobber Knocker.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31 Kansas State 28
Jim Ross @JRsBBQ
J.R. is an Oklahoma native who lives in Norman with his wife Jan. He’s a WWE Hall of Fame broadcaster, two time New York Times Best Selling author, and is recognized as the "Voice of Pro Wrestling" after a 40-year career in the field. His podcast, The Ross Report, can be heard on iTunes weekly and is one of the most listened to podcasts in the world. JR’s line of BBQ Sauces, Chipotle Ketchup, Jalapeno Honey Mustard, and All Purpose Seasoning/Dry Rub are available at the three Norman Homeland Grocery Stores and online at www.wweshop.com.