The Big XII title game is finally upon us and we once again get to chat with our friends down in Norman, Crimson and Cream Machine. I asked their Editor in Chief Jack Shields a few questions about our rematch and maybe, just maybe we can form a little rivalry moving forward.
1. So we meet again. I am not sure about you but I could get used to a little rivalry starting up here between Iowa State and Oklahoma given how close the games have been over the last few years, you down? Probably could brush Texas to the side.
I think that sounds like a lovely idea. Honestly, I’ve been saying for a few years that Iowa State would be my dream Big 12 Championship opponent. I’ve been attending the Big 12 Tournament since the Kemper Arena days and have seen firsthand how devoted ISU’s fan base happens to be, and I would love to see droves of folks from both schools bonding over Busch Lights (or Lattes, as I believe y’all call them) in the JerryWorld parking lot. It just sucks that it had to happen in 2020, but this is also my premature pick for the 2021 championship game, so the dream is still alive.
2. Iowa State and Oklahoma played a hell of a game in Ames and Oklahoma is obviously a much better team since then. What has been the biggest difference since then?
The defense has just been lights-out since the last matchup. Even before Ronnie Perkins was reinstated, the defensive front as a whole has surpassed my most optimistic expectations. Hell, when OU’s offense sputtered against Baylor, the defense was there to save the offense’s bacon. It’s not exactly the dynamic people have long come to expect from this program, but it’s nice to know that this team can win a game without the offense feeling as if it needs to score a touchdown on every possession.
3. We are used to seeing Oklahoma quarterbacks torch everyone alive. Rattler has yet to really “take” over if you compare him to Baker, Kyler and Jalen, which ultimately may be unfair. I think we all know he is going to have a phenomenal career in Norman. What has been the best thing you have seen from him since Ames and even the benching against Texas.
The impact of said benching can’t be understated. Rattler’s primary flaw entering the season was his noted tendency to try to do too much on a play. Early in the season, this would result in turnovers, and this was particularly true in the first half against Texas. Since the benching, he’s thrown only two picks – one of which wasn’t his fault. He’s simply taking fewer risks and grasping the offense a bit better. Additionally, the playbook has opened up for him a bit as the season has progressed.
4. Iowa State has also improved since then, what is the one thing that Oklahoma needs to key on during the game on Saturday?
As great as Iowa State’s offense is, I’m less worried about that matchup than I am the Oklahoma offense/ISU defense showdown. Do I think the OU is capable of having a big day? Sure, but Jon Heacock has never really allowed Lincoln Riley’s offenses to get completely confortable or find a rhythm. I’m also still a little concerned about the OU offensive line, which had a rough outing against Baylor two weeks ago.
It’s not necessarily something to ‘key on’, but the offensive line’s matchup against Iowa State’s front has sure been an area of heavy emphasis this week.
5. The Oklahoma defensive line is going to be at full strength and this matchup against the Offensive Line against Iowa State can arguably be considered one of the best offensive lines in the country against one of the best defensive lines in the country. I really think the game is won or lost here. Is that kind of your thoughts or do you look elsewhere?
I think that’s fair, and while I expect the OU pass rush to be much more effective this time around, it’s not going to come as easily as it has against the Baylors and Oklahoma States of the world. The OU defense and Iowa State offense will both have their moments, and probably at a fairly even clip.
6. Give us your prediction and why.
I went with 31-28 Oklahoma on our podcast, and I’m sticking to it. I think OU’s sheer talent will win the day in the end, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m not expecting Jon Heacock’s defense to allow the OU offense to get into a rhythm. On the other side, the OU defense has improved by leaps and bounds, but Iowa State’s offense is going to get theirs. I’m looking forward to the game, but not the stress that will accompany it.
One final note – I made the mistake of drinking Busch Light during the last matchup and inadvertently gave Iowa State some positive juju. I’ll go with PBR just to be safe this time. Should put OU over the top.