No. 15 Kansas State at No. 6 Oklahoma
Saturday, 7:30pm Eastern, FOX
Line: Oklahoma -14
While the rest of the college football world is mainly stuck playing meaningless non-conference games against the blind sisters of the poor we can thank the scheduling gods of the Big 12 for giving us a potentially Big 12 championship deciding game in the first week of conference action.
Yes, I just said Kansas State and Big 12 Championship in the same sentence. That wasn't a joke, it's an actual thought that many folks including yours truly happen to believe could be a reality come the end of November. Kansas State has managed to make Miami look a lot like the Miami of the 70's - namely a terrible football team.
Oklahoma's one "test" came on the road in week one against an average at best UTEP team and they only have added a game against FCS opponent Florida A&M to their resume. So, how much do we really know about this team after just two games? Especially since UTEP nearly scared the crap out of them before good ole Boomer Sooner pulled one out late.
No matter what happens though, the winner of this game firmly plants themselves in the drivers seat in the early conference title race. So, what should be on the look out for in this crucial Big 12 battle?
For Oklahoma to Win: MUST STOP COLLIN KLEIN... MUST STOP COLLIN KLEIN. I'm sure that's being drilled into the players on the Sooners defense for about the 9 billionth time heading into this game, and it's done for a very good reason. He's kind of a really, really, good player and all.
How you do that is a lot easier said than done though as he is both efficient in the passing game as well as more than a capable runner. He's completed 72% of his passes and is 2nd on the team in rushing with 210 yards (4.6 avg). But, the one area of weakness could be in his decision making if put in a tight spot. He does have 2 INT's on the season already.
So, Mike Stoops has been lucky to have the week off before this game to scheme up some blitzes and unique ways to put pressure on Klein. Taking the ball away will be a major key for the Sooners to keep this vastly underrated player in check.
If they can do that they can also give their very talented offense a chance at shorter fields and that means success offensively as well. All of that adds up to how Oklahoma could win this game.
For Kansas State to Win: Keep doing what you're doing, both on offense and defense. Only do it for four quarters for a change. This isn't North Texas or Missouri State, or even Miami. You can't come away with negative yardage for a quarter (i.e. last week) against a team like the Sooners and hope to win.
Thankfully it appears the defense is capable of stopping an opponent or two, something not seen in most of the Big 12.
Collin Klein must also stay protected when back to pass. Limit the pressure he feels and the hits he takes and let me run this team. He's not only a great football player but a great leader, so let me lose against a defense that hasn't seen an offensive player as good as Klein on the opposite of the field yet this year.
Lastly, they need to perhaps become a bit more methodical in their offensive approach to the game, slow things down with the running game. K-State can do that as they are rushing for just over 251 yards a game as a team. That's helped them to a point, but they need to win the time of possession battle.
Key Player, Oklahoma: Kenny Stills, the Sooner wide receiver needs to win the battles against the K-State corners. It's an area that the Wildcats have shown to be strong against, giving up just 5.1 yards an attempt. If Landry Jones is going to be successful Stills needs to find ways to get open deep and often or it could be a long day.
After all, Stills leads the team in receptions after just two games with 16 and has 241 yards with 2 touchdowns. Hopefully for Sooners fans that week off didn't cool off the chemistry Jones and Stills have.
Key Player, Kansas State: Whatever spotlight has been shown on the Wildcats has been beamed directly at Colin Klein, but for me the most important player for the Wildcats' chances of success on Saturday in Norman come from running back John Hubert.
He leads the team in rushing with 296 yards on just 43 carries. For all the talk of Klein's ability as a runner it's really key that Hubert continues to give the Sooners another player they have to stop. It opens up the offense so much more, especially when you have to worry about someone that's averaging nearly 7 yards a carry and 98 yards a game on top of what Klein can do.
Key Stat: 7 - that's the number of losses Kansas State has when opening their Big 12 schedule on the road since the conference's inception in 1996. They are just 3-7 in those road openers. However, on the flip side of that is the fact that they have won three straight Big 12 openers, including two against rivals Iowa State on a neutral field.
This isn't the same team as some of those mid-2000's teams at Kansas State and I get that, but they still need to prove they can go on the road and win the "big one" before they make a believer out of most of the nation.
Besides, Oklahoma has been good for one bad or confusing loss a season as of late, right? So, can they avoid that happening against a good team at home? Only 3 and a half hours on Saturday will give us the answers to the questions we have about these teams.