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Offensive Player to Watch vs. Oklahoma: ....Tom Manning?

All eyes will be on the offensive game plan heading into this week.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

You may be thinking to yourself “damn, Levi, this makes no sense. Tom Manning isn’t even a player.” To that I respond, “don’t tell me how to live my life.” We’ve seen on numerous occasions this season, especially since the emergence of Breece Hall, that Iowa State is plenty capable of picking up yards on the ground, whether it be with a running back or Brock Purdy’s legs.

Last time out against Oklahoma State, we saw an incredible 62 pass attempts from Brock Purdy. We covered it extensively in the FIlm Room, but when a team passes that often in an early comeback effort, especially to the same 10-20 yard distance in the middle of the field, the defense can then begin sagging off the line of scrimmage, and jumping passing lanes. Had Iowa State made a more committed effort on the ground or in the screen game, those late throws to Charlie Kolar that were intercepted probably would have had a much greater chance of success.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Fortunately, there’s a lot gravity toward a greater emphasis on running the ball. First is obviously a return to the Cyclones’ preferred style of play, as mentioned above. Second, both Kansas State and Army have shown us that an effective run game that can take time off the clock and put points on the board can make an enormous difference when trying to take down the Sooners.

Kansas State’s power read option scheme with extra blockers on the edge absolutely decimated a Sooners’ defense that’s still got a lot of growing to do, and tends to over-pursue gap assignments in the running game. Army’s clock-guzzling triple option attack kept Kyler Murray off the field for almost entire quarters at a time, and allowed the Black Knights to come within a possession of pulling off a monumental upset in Norman.

Obviously Iowa State isn’t going to try to run the triple option (as fun as that does sound), and the stable of pass catchers is far too talented to ignore, but the running scheme Kansas State deployed two weeks ago against Oklahoma is not terribly different from what Tom Manning and Matt Campbell like to do.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma loves to strike quickly and take early leads to force their opponent to play catch up. Obviously that puts all of the pressure on the opponent to be perfect on offense, but it also takes pressure off the OU run defense.

If Iowa State gets out to an early one or two score deficit, it’s extremely likely that Tom Manning will start trying to push the ball down field. That’s fine, but it will be absolutely important that balance between the running/screen game and the intermediate and deep passing games is maintained. If Oklahoma is allowed to sit back on defense and take some chances at creating turnovers, winning will be a near impossible task.

Run the ball effectively, keep the OU defense on the field, and test a beat up secondary with a few deep shots, and Iowa State will be in a good position to record a second consecutive road upset in Norman.