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2017 Game V: Iowa State vs. #3 Oklahoma Football Preview

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Oklahoma never takes its foot off the gas against ISU.. Will it be the same this year?

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Game V: Iowa State (2-2, 0-1) vs. #3 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0)

Date: Saturday, October 7th, 2017

Time: 11:00 A.M. CST

Location: Gaylord Family-OU Stadium, Norman, OK

Capacity: 83,489

Line: OU -28

Television: FOX

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

OU Game Notes

Sooner SB Nation WebsiteCrimson and Cream Machine

This is the kind of game that Matt Campbell calls “a defining moment” for his program. Oklahoma has beaten ISU 18 straight times, and since 1999 the average score has been 40-10. Needless to say, this game is as one-sided as Lieutenant Dan and Forrest Gump in a foot-race.

Coach Campbell was asked in the weekly press conference if his team was intimidated by the #3 ranked team in the country?

“This team is a group that has never been intimidated - by who they are playing, or where they are playing. And that’s all based on confidence in terms of the process going into each and every week.” – Matt Campbell

That my friends, is a good sign. Notice Campbell mentioned this group. He knows that this specific roster and leaders on this team are not one to back down in a fight, and again are – “Trusting in the System.”

We just all need to take a deep breath, and R-E-L-A-X. You can’t build a powerhouse (er, a winning) football team in Ames, IA overnight, let alone 1.5 years.

When we last left off….

ISU laid an egg in what was a perfect opportunity to show the country who the Cyclones were on national television.

The defense played tough versus Texas, but their counterparts on the offensive side struggled immensely. Jacob Park and company crossed the 50 yard line six different times, but only put up one score. The running game never got going, and Park was running for his life at times.

The ineptitude of ISU’s O-line can’t hold a candle to KU’s though…

The linebacking crew of Joel Lanning, Marcel Spears, Jr., and Willie Harvey combined for 46 tackles, and the defense held the Longhorns to only 2.7 yards per carry.

But it was too little, too late, as ISU lost its first conference game of the year (and needed to have it for chance at bowl game), by a score of 17-7.

The Series

Iowa State last beat Oklahoma in 1990. That means those playing in that game, could in effect – tell their grandkids about the time they once beat Oklahoma, in Norman, 27 years ago…

In fact, Oklahoma is 75-5-2 in the all-time series. About as competitive as the Washington Generals vs. Harlem Globetrotters.

Oklahoma Tidbits

Long-time coach Bob Stoops shocked the nation when he surprisingly stepped down in June. Nobody knows the reason, but they do have a stud in the making in Lincoln Riley – the youngest coach in the FBS. Riley is known for his efficient play-calling and ability to create mismatches on the offensive side of the ball.

Riley hired his former mentor (and head coach when he was at East Carolina) in defensive coach Ruffin McNeill, and also kept a Stoops on staff in Bob’s brother, Mike, at defensive coordinator. OU has the nation’s longest winning streak at 14 games, and carries with it the country’s best win to date – at Ohio State.

So far this season, Oklahoma is absolutely murdering defenses Grand Theft Auto style. Here are some of the statistics they are leading the country in:

  • Total Offense (605 yards per game)
  • Passing Efficiency (229.85, with 2nd place at 188)
  • Yards per Pass Attempt (13.16)
  • Passing plays of 20+ or more (7.3 per game)

Baker Mayfield is the front-runner for the Heisman, as he is enrolled in the Van Wilder graduate program, and carries with him a sort of moxie Jacob Park would envy. The 8th year senior is completing passes at a 75% clip, averages over 330 yards per game through the air, and has 13 touchdowns to zero interceptions.

The defense has improved from a year ago, and are led by its vaunted secondary. Albeit a gaffe versus Baylor, the Sooners are still allowing less than 200 passing yards and 1 touchdown pass per game. And oh yeah, they have the Big-12 sack leader in Ogbonnia Okoronkwo.

Iowa State Offense

This should be the game plan for this offense.

DA BOMB -

Now I know a lot of you fans were questioning Tom Manning and company after their pathetic performance versus Texas, but slow your roll. This man can and will make adjustments. Manning is just too good of an offensive mind not to diagnose the weak link (O-Line) and mask that moving forward.

Jacob Park will have plenty of opportunities for the “bomb pass,” as he will more than likely be playing from behind. I see a big day out of the receiving corps as Baylor torched the Sooners for multiple down field throws. But what is most important is giving #10 time to throw.

First Key to Victory – Protect Park

This was my key to victory last week, and Texas’s pass rush disrupted Park’s timing and ability to step up in the pocket. An easy way to mitigate the blitz is with short passes in open spaces (sounds easy, but ISU did not do it against the Longhorns). That means a heavy dose of the underneath routes from Deshaunte Jones, Trever Ryen, and even David “DM Train” Montgomery.

Get these slippery sneaky playmakers the ball in space and they can create yards after the catch.

Again, as you can see below against Baylor, there were open receivers who stretched the field for long gains. Oklahoma’s corners are aggressive, but can be beaten.

Enter Hakeem Butler and Allen Lazard, who can create mismatches against much smaller defensive backs (all of OU’s are 6-foot-1 or shorter). It will be important for them to get off jam coverage and not disrupt their downfield routes.

David Montgomery was a no-show last week, not because of his performance, but because of a lack of touches. The DM Train gets stronger as the game progresses, and ISU needs to ride that choo-choo train all day, as a quarterback’s best friend is a solid rushing attack.

Oklahoma Defense

Bobby’s brother Mike Stoops has been in this game a long time. He is erratic at times, and loves to force the pressure on opponents. In years past, his little brother was always able to take the heat for the defense, but we have yet to see any adversity from the media this season under Riley.

The Sooners run a pseudo 4-2-5 scheme with a lot of speed on the field. The majority of their production comes through their “JACK” position aka ISU’s “LEO” and the linebackers. So far on the season, OU is third in the Big 12 in scoring defense and total defense, and second in sacks.

That man leading the team in sacks (and conference) is none other than Jack/Defensive End Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. With that tongue twister for a name, he was Pre-Season All-Big 12, and is on a ton of watch-lists. At 240 pounds, his forte is getting around the edge with speed, as evident in this strip sack, and game-ending play against Baylor.

Another truly impressive feat for this defense is their ability to slow down the pass, especially in the gun-slinging Big 12 Conference. Going back to last season and that 14-game winning streak, the Sooners have held their opponents to just a 53% completion rate, and four games below the 50% mark.

That tells me two things:

  1. They have a tremendous pass rush
  2. Their defensive backs go up and compete for the ball

That comes with talent, and OU has some of the best in football, corralling top-15 recruiting classes over the last five years.

Leading the charge in the secondary is Pre-Season All-American cornerback Jordan Thomas, and his counterpart, Parnell Motley. Most teams have shied away from Thomas’s side of the field, and Motley has taken full advantage – leading the team in interceptions.

OU linebackers are quick and fast, with none over 242 pounds, as they are required to cover the field in multiple sets and packages. The team leader in tackles is Emmanuel Beal, with Kenneth Murray not too far behind.

The Verdict – OU

Gotta give this one to the home team. Playing on the road in this hostile environment does not bode well for our offense, especially after last week’s performance. If there is any weakness in the Sooners, it is their inability to create turnovers and stop teams in the red zone.

That will mean ISU has to win the 50/50 jump balls with heralded receivers Lazard and Butler, and put up 6s, not 3s, when they get inside the 20.

Iowa State Defense

Last year ISU showed tremendous progress, when they kept the game against Oklahoma close. It was a one possession game late, and the Cyclones did it with pressure on the quarterback.

Ok, maybe we don’t send the kitchen sink all the time, but Heacock and company may have a found a remedy for success with blitzing speedier corners from the outside and collapsing the pocket last year. Needless to say, there is no one in the country that can scramble and create throws on the run better than Baker Mayfield.

OU has one of the best offensive lines in the country, so the front-four will have its work cut out for them. They run a lot of mis-directions, sweeps with motion receivers, and operate at a speed faster than Usain Bolt. After we see multiple outside throws, OU will stretch out the defense, and then run it right up the gut.

I’m not worried about Trent and Lima inside, but I am with J.D. Waggoner and Jaquan Bailey on the outside. They need to keep their containment and stay on their feet when Mayfield gets outside the pocket.

Campbell alluded to adding what he calls “multiplicity” to his defensive scheme during the off week.

This is the first game I think we will see more of a nickel/4-2-5 package, replacing run-stoppers with coverage corners/safeties. That means less Joel Lanning and more Evrett Edwards, Lawrence White, and Braxton Lewis.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Iowa State
Time for Mr. Edwards to step up
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

ISU has to put more speed on the field to mitigate the passing attack, and can’t do so with 3 linebackers on the field.

De’Monte Ruth stepped up in D’Andre Payne’s absence and played admirably against Texas. Payne is still questionable, but it would be nice to have both options on Saturday. Kamari Cotton-Moya looked great in his return to the field, and again he will have to be all over the field, especially on the deep throws.

Second Key to Victory – Win the Turnover Battle

With that aggressive defensive mentality comes a chance at errant throws and disruption of downfield routes. Oklahoma thrives on the deep ball, and if ISU wants to contain that, they will have to create pressure from a multitude of ways.

I look for Heacock to send blitzes like he did last year from the outside, and pinch that pocket, making Mayfield’s day as uncomfortable as he can.

OU Offense

Is it just me or do you see a resemblance?

Mayfield does whatever he wants to do, whenever he wants to do it, even planting an OU flag on Ohio State’s 50-yard line. He has more weapons than a Swiss-army knife, and has the luxury of the newly minted “four horsemen” in his backfield.

Those running backs are Abdul Adams (averages 10.3 yards per carry), Marcelias Sutton (6.6 YPC), and in my opinion the most talented in freshman Trey Sermon (5.9 YPC). Add in fullback Dimitri Flowers, and this backfield is stacked.

The offensive line is the best in the Big 12, and returns all five starters from a year ago. They are led by 2016 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year Orlando Brown, and are adept at both pass blocking and paving the way for a potent running game.

The wide receiving corps lost one of the best in Dede Westbrook to the pros, but haven’t missed a beat. Leading the team in catches is Pre-Season All-American Tight End Mark Andrews and his 6-foot-5 frame. They have many deep-ball options, among them Jeff Badet and CeeDee Lamb, who both average 19 yards a catch or more. In all, there are 10 different receivers who have scored a TD already this year.

Even OU’s 250-pound tank of a fullback showed some speed in this catch versus Ohio State.

Verdict – OU by a Landslide

The Sooners have a front-runner for the Heisman for a reason. Baker Mayfield is the best at his position, and does not make mistakes. The line has no holes, and the weapons at OU’s disposal is downright frightening.

Special Teams

Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert does his best Tony Yelk impersonation, playing double-duty as both punter and kicker. What’s funny is the offense is so efficient that Seibert has only attempted two field goals all season. And NINE punts!

ISU has a stalwart in punter Colin Downing, who continues to impress. We have yet to see a breakout performance from our return game, as Johnnie Lang was banged up last week, and in his place at kick returner this week is Landon Akers, a walk-on receiver from Cedar Rapids Washington.

One thing the Sooners have not been good at is kickoff and punt coverage. So watch out for the local Iowa boys Trever Ryen and Akers in the return game.

Verdict – ISU

ISU wins this on the sheer reason that OU’s kicker/punter does not have enough FGs/punts to qualify. Sorry, I’m a tough grader.

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

For this week, if we were to compare chances of winning in a drag race, with a 1 being a wagon-wheeled Schooner pulled behind two horses, and a 10 with a souped-up Lamborghini and 750-max horse-power, I give ISU a measly 1.5.

They will be breaking wheels “Oregon Trail” style, and listening to that damn “Boomer Sooner” song all day long…

Final Analysis

This one might get ugly folks. Oklahoma just has too much firepower, and are playing for a spot in the College Football playoff.

Third Key to Victory - PRAY

I see Jacob Park throwing for career-high in yards, and Deshaunte Jones finally getting back on track. Hakeem Butler will score a few touchdowns, but the defense will get gashed in the deep passing game.

Give me Sooners in this one, running away.

Final Score

Iowa State 27

Oklahoma 45