SB Nation's Crimson and Cream Machine was kind enough to drop by and offer their perspective for Saturday's Oklahoma Sooners v. Kansas State Wildcats tilt. After speaking with CCM'S Matt Hofeld, it appears both sides are a bit nervous, and Trevor Knight should be.
BOTC: Through the early part of the season, it looked like Oklahoma's defense was on track to be among the nation's best again. Teams have been able to score lately, however. Have you noticed anything schematically that opponents may have discovered?
MH: The main difference between the first four games and the last two has been the play of the quarterbacks. TCU did an outstanding job of spreading out the defensive front by taking wider splits, which slowed down the pass rush off the edge. The main culprit, though, has been dual-threat quarterbacks that can run the option and throw with accuracy. The Sooners haven’t been able to contain them on the edge, and the times that they have, Trevone Boykin and Tyrone Swoopes were able to get loose up the middle.
The other factor has been exposing free safety Ahmad Thomas’ struggles in coverage. He has to improve vastly on his understanding of coverages. If he can’t get it done, then Oklahoma is going to continue to get toasted on deep passes.
BOTC: The Sooners are generally viewed as the Big 12's most talented team most years. Even so, has the regular good output at the running back spot been somewhat of a surprise considering the shuffling of guys there?
MH: From the day he stepped on campus, Samaje Perine was drawing praises from the coaching staff. They raved on his strength and power, and now we’re seen it play out on the field. Alex Ross is an Oklahoma product who was highly touted in high school, and Oklahoma fans saw Keith Ford last season. I guess the biggest surprise has been Perine moving up to the top spot on the depth chart. It’ll be interesting to see how that situation is managed once Ford is back and healthy again.
BOTC: From your vantage point, has Trevor Knight's passing truly improved from last year, or is he the benefactor of Sterling Shepard's superb first half?
MH: No, I don’t believe his passing has improved from last season. Unfortunately, I believe he’s still where he was during the regular season last year. He’s at 55-percent accuracy and has 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. Possibly the worst thing is that he’s locking in on receivers and defenders are starting to read him like a book.
I have high hopes for Knight, expect that he’ll improve and be another one of the great quarterbacks to have played under Bob Stoops. Just, right now, he very much looks like a sophomore quarterback who has only played in 12 games.
BOTC: On Shepard, what makes him so consistently good? How excited are you to see a potential Shepard v. Danzel McDaniel matchup a few times?
MH: His speed and ability to adjust to the catch are superb. He’s a student of the game and comes from a football family. He’s a constant grinder who studies his opponent during the game to try and pinpoint a weakness. How can you not be excited to see one of the Big 12’s top receivers go against one of the top defensive backs?
BOTC: OU just went through a pretty tough two-game stretch. Is this a good time for K-State to catch the Sooners?
MH: I think so. The Wildcats are coming off a bye week, and TCU put out a blueprint for shutting down the OU offense. There wasn’t a whole lot of change in Oklahoma’s offensive game plan last week against Texas, and it resulted in 29 total offensive yards in the first half.
Now, Kansas State comes in with the Big 12’s top-ranked defense against the run, and it’s time to see if offensive coordinator Josh Heupel can make some adjustments to get Oklahoma back to moving the ball.
BOTC: Of what you've seen or heard of KSU in 2014, what should OU's chief concerns be as they prepare for the Wildcats?
MH: I think, defensively, the Sooners have to be concerned about Jake Waters. As I mentioned earlier, dual-threat quarterbacks have given Oklahoma’s defense fits over the last few weeks, and Waters certainly fits that mold. OU must find a way to get pressure on him while also defending the run and keeping up with Tyler Lockett. Not an easy task!
Offensively, the Sooners have to be able to run the ball to win. Facing a defense that is allowing just 2.8 yards per carry means that nothing is going to come easy for OU on Saturday, and that concerns me greatly.