Iowa State Cyclones (6-4, 4-3) at Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1)
Date: November 20th
Time: 11 A.M.
Place: Gaylord Family/OU Memorial Stadium
Line: Oklahoma (-4.5)
Talent: Gus Johnson (pxp), Joel Klatt (analyst), Jenny Taft (sideline)
SB Nation Site: Crimson and Cream Machine
*All advanced stats provided by SIS DataHub
When we last left off...
Let’s just try not to rehash hard memories. Iowa State dropped a critical game down in Lubbock. The Cyclones feel behind big early on and roared all the way back. Just to lose on a 62-yard field goal. Hat tip to the Texas Tech kicker. Who took that 62-yarder and hit us squarely between the legs and knocked Iowa State right out of contention for the Big 12 title game. Yes, I know there are two scenarios floating out there for Iowa State still to make it back to Dallas. We’re Cyclone fans, luck don’t find us.
Quarterback controversy in Norman? Again? Or no? Oklahoma is coming off their first loss of the season to Baylor. The sooner offense struggled all afternoon, so much that Spencer Rattler found himself in the game in the 3rd quarter. Only to be put right back on the sideline in the 4th quarter. I would assume that Caleb Williams will be starting for Oklahoma but we had crazier things happen.
Oklahoma has rarely lost back-to-back games since Oct. 2 and 9, 1999, has Oklahoma lost back-to-back regular-season games. That was last year when OU fell 38-35 at home to Kansas State and 37-30 at Iowa State.
Oklahoma leads the all-time series 77-7-2. Iowa State won last year's regular-season game 37-30. Oklahoma would return the favor in the Big 12 title game, 27-21.
Iowa State Offense
Iowa State struggled to get things going on the ground on Saturday against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders made it a point of emphasis to absolutely bottle Breece Hall up and it worked. Hall was held to 51 yards rushing, 2.8 yards per carry. In turn, the Cyclone offense looked like it had never seen a football field in the first half. Iowa State was able to find some sort of groove in the second half through the air and get the game tied late but the slow first half doomed them in.
First Key to Victory - Get Off The Bus Ready
My high school football coach always told us to be ready to come off the bus and be ready to go to work. That’s exactly what Iowa State will need to do in this game on Saturday. Iowa State will not be able to afford another slow start especially if the defense has another showing that they did last week. Iowa State has the horses on offense to put up points but they have to start in the first quarter.
This leads me to the offensive line. What was once a strong group last season has taken a major step back in 2021. With two games left, there is much more to be desired from a group that was regarded as the top offensive line in the Big 12. Iowa State’s line will have to generate push upfront and stop playing behind the line of scrimmage if the Cyclones really want to open up the offense against Oklahoma.
The Sooner defense started the season strong but recently has shown some holes. Baylor Ran right through the Oklahoma defense for 297 yards averaging over 6 yards per carry. It allowed the Bears to control the game and keep Oklahoma from getting in rhythm from a team perspective.
Oklahoma allows 27 points per game and opposing offenses continually rack up over 400 yards of offense. 270 of those yards come through the air where the Sooners give up 8.5 yards per passing. If Iowa State can’t get the run going once again for whatever reason, Brock Purdy will be able to find success through the air again this week.
Nik Bonitto is one defensively Iowa State needs to keep their eyes on. The junior has 30 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. His eight quarterback hurries are four more than the next player on Oklahoma.
The Verdict - Even
I am not really high on Iowa State’s ability to put together a full game offensively. They hit a hot streak and last week was a massive downfall. From the lack of game-planning and the inability to run the ball, the Cyclones more than likely will have their work cut out for them once again. Need the offensive line to produce some holes consistently for Breece Hall. Until we see it happen again this is a toss-up.
Iowa State Defense
It’s no secret that Iowa State’s defense last week was...not great. Giving up 31 points in the first half was just about as bad as they could have been against the Red Raiders. Iowa State also gave up 8.4 yards per pass attempt and allowed freshman quarterback Donovon Smith to throw for 322 yards and 3 touchdown passes. The Cyclones also gave up 222 yards of rushing on 6.7 yards a carry and two touchdowns.
Second Key to Victory - Stop Giving Up Deep Passes, DAMMIT
A 75.8% completion rate is the highest given up by the Cyclones this season, 222 yards on the ground was the highest given up by the Cyclones this season, and yards per play was an all-time high. Like I said, not great Bob. The QB pressure was about average for Iowa State, but the defensive backs were all aboard the struggle bus in Lubbock.
In the broader span of things, Iowa State’s defense has been good for the most part. 21st in passing yards allowed per game, 19th in rushing yards per game, and their yards per play is in the top 25. Whether or not we see Will McDonald this weekend will certainly have an impact, and could play a big role in containing Caleb Williams.
The 2021 Oklahoma Sooners are not the Oklahoma Sooners of the past. Their offense has struggled to score at times, as shown last week in their loss against Baylor. Despite OU having their highest completion percentage rate in the Lincoln Riley era at 72.5%, yards per pass attempt is almost a full yard below the previous low for 8.4 net yards per attempt. Their sack percentage is also at a high at 6.3%. Quarterback rating (measured by our friends at SIS Data Hub) is also at a low as well at 115.7.
Oklahoma doesn’t have the firepower that they have had in previous years, with their boom play percentage at just 26.8%. The run game obviously has not been a huge part of Oklahoma’s offense in the past, and that certainly has not changed this year. They average 172.6 yards per game that is - get this - the worst since Lincoln Riley took over.
Caleb Williams appeared to be the savior early in the season, but OU fans are still undecided whether they want to boo Rattler or Williams at this point. The freshman out of Washington D.C. has started every game since coming in to relieve Spencer Rattler against Texas 6 weeks ago. In that time, Williams has completed 88 of 128 passes for 1335 yards and a 14-3 TD-INT ratio. He’s also added 305 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns on 41 attempts, averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
The Verdict - Iowa State
I think Iowa State still needs to play a similar style of defense that they did that led to an upset of OU in Ames a season ago, meaning that quarterback contain is going to be vital. That being said, if Will McDonald is out this week, who knows what could happen. I think this defense is going to succeed against an offense that is falling apart at the seams and for the first time in a while, this Oklahoma offense absolutely does not scare me (famous last words).
One thing that Iowa State will have to do to be in a good spot is force a turnover or two or three. Just about the only thing that is the same about this OU offense and years previous is that they take care of the football. Just one fumble lost for the Sooners and 8 interceptions, 5 thrown by Spencer Rattler. If the Cyclones want to kick a team while it’s down, a turnover is almost necessary.
Bright spot alert! We are still kicking the ball out of bounds on kickoffs and Andrew Mevis is still a clutch field goal kicker. Iowa State has not beat themselves in a long time on special teams (knock on wood). So that is great to see at least.
On the Oklahoma side of things. They have a pretty good kicker themselves in Gabe Brkic. The Sooner kicker is 17 of 22 on the season with 5 of those field goals coming from beyond 50 yards. Brkic ranks third in the Big 12 and 16th nationally among all players with his 95 points
The Verdict - Even
Nothing really makes either side in this one stand out. Both have been really solid lately. As we all know, special teams can flip a game pretty quickly for either side. It’s Iowa State’s job to make sure that part of their struggles doesn’t come through in this one.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
We give Iowa State a Lincoln Riley to LSU chance of winning this one. Which apparently may be good? No one really knows.
Iowa State needs this one badly. The Big 12 Championship game is out the window but there is always something to play for and getting to 8 regular-season wins would be huge once again. It’s going to be tough and I am not sure I like the chances in Norman. Nail bitter once again.
Oklahoma - 24
Iowa State - 21
Let us know your predictions in the comments below!