When Iowa State takes the field against Oklahoma this Saturday, they'll be without Jake Knott on the field for the first time in 46 games. That's obviously a terrible thing for Knott, Iowa State and Cyclone fans. Knott won't get to finish his senior career playing for the Cyclones, Iowa State's losing a star linebacker and Cyclone fans won't get the pleasure of seeing #20 play his last 4-5 games.
This is obviously the main story line this week. Knott has done all that's ever been asked of him by Iowa State and more. But with Oklahoma rolling into town, Iowa State needs to focus its attention on an opponent they've had very little success against in the past. Because this is a vulnerable Oklahoma team.
Oklahoma is still Oklahoma. The Sooners destroyed Texas 63-21, and the game was somehow MORE lopsided than the score indicates. Oklahoma has only lost to two consensus top-five teams, while beating everyone else by an average of 36.2 points.
But this Sooners team has weaknesses. Overall, Oklahoma's offense is amazing, but Oklahoma's offensive line is still a bit of a work in progress. The Sooners have given up 12 sacks on the season, 34th best in the country. Conversely, the Sooners have been struggling to bring down opponent's quarterbacks, only recording 13 sacks, 77th in the country.
Oklahoma has also been merely average at protecting the football and forcing turnovers. The Sooners have recovered ten turnovers while giving the ball away nine times. That .14 turnover margin is tied for 53rd best in the country. The team directly below them with a .13 turnover margin? The Iowa State Cyclones.
Still, on paper Oklahoma is better at every single position than Iowa State. Statistically, Oklahoma is better in almost every category than Iowa State. This isn't new; this has almost always been the dynamic between the two teams since they started playing in 1928.
Additionally, Oklahoma will likely be playing with a vengeance, having suffered their second loss of the season last week against Notre Dame. Oklahoma hasn't lost back-to-back regular season games since 1999, Bob Stoops first year in Norman.
So things aren't lining up well for an upset this week. But yet... Iowa State played maybe their best game of the season last week against Baylor. Granted, calling Baylor's defense garbage would be disrespectful to garbage. But the game was a shot of confidence to an offense that had lost its way in previous weeks. And the defense has to feel good about holding a Baylor team that had been averaging 48 points/game to just 21 points.
And if there's one thing Paul Rhoads has taught Cyclone fans in his time in Ames, it's to expect the unexpected. Whether it's a surprising onside kick, a fake kick in overtime or an upset of a previously unbeatable team; Rhoads is consistently pulling unprecedented shit out of his ass.
So while the odds aren't stacked in Iowa State's favor, Iowa State has a better shot at finally taking down Oklahoma tomorrow than anytime in the last decade. Can Paul Rhoads make this his signature upset of 2012? If so, it would be the biggest win of his career. Iowa State only beats Oklahoma every 16.6 years. It's been 21 years since the Cyclones last took down the Sooners. It's time.