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Kicking the Tires: Oklahoma Sooners

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After two straight losses, K-State remains at home for this week's contest with Oklahoma. The Sooners arrive in Manhattan fresh off their first loss of the season.

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, a quick look back to last week's TCU preview:

Last week, the key stat was third-down efficiency. This week, it will be explosive plays. If K-State can force long marches down the field by TCU, then the Wildcats could hang around into the fourth quarter.

Instead, TCU scored on its first play from scrimmage, an 86-yard touchdown run for Aaron Green. For the game, the Horned Frogs averaged more than 10 yards per play.

That's not especially surprising against a K-State defense decimated by injuries and suspensions. At times last Saturday, K-State was without Dante Barnett, Morgan Burns, Danzel McDaniel and Cre Moore, and started true freshman Duke Shelley at cornerback.

Oklahoma doesn't quite have the same cast of playmakers to make K-State pay for that much attrition. But Sterling Shepherd, Dede Westbrook and Durron Neal will get their chances. It will be up to the K-State front to shore things up against Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon and make the Sooners one dimensional.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Joe Hubener, 52-109-2, 827 yards, 4 TD, 6.7 yards/attempt

Rushing: Justin Silmon, 57 carries, 282 yards, 4.9 yards/carry, 2 TD

Receiving: Deante Burton, 15 receptions, 222 yards, 14.8 yards/reception, 2 TD

Oklahoma

Passing: Baker Mayfield, 108-163-3, 1,593 yards, 14 TD, 8.4 yards/attempt

Rushing: Samaje Perine, 82 carries, 364 yards, 4.4 yards/carry, 3 TD

Receiving: Sterling Shepherd, 26 receptions, 416 yards, 16 yards/reception, 3 TD

Oklahoma's primary offensive problem is apparent from a quick perusal of the stats: the offensive line play hasn't been very good. Perine has fewer rushing yards on the season than he did against KU last year. Texas sacked Mayfield six times last week in Dallas. The Sooners are 81st nationally in Adjusted Sack Rate. They rank below 70th nationally in the major S&P+ rushing categories.

For K-State's part, the offensive line play has been a pleasant surprise, relative to expectations. The Wildcats have two primary problems limiting the offense this year. There are no established playmakers at any of the skill positions that put defenders in decisional conflict or can simply win one-on-one matchups consistently. And the offensive coaching staff has shown a surprising aversion to sticking with what works best for this team.

Defensively, Oklahoma is solid against the run. But last week, Texas gashed the Sooners for 313 yards on 5.4 yards per carry. K-State needs to use the Texas blueprint to establish run-game credibility. With a credible rushing threat, K-State can more easily put OU's run-support defenders into decisional conflict and hit for chunk yardage off play-action passes.

Watch for K-State to attack OU's defensive line early with blitzes designed to pressure Mayfield into quick decisions. The Wildcats have blitzed more often this year than in previous years - anecdotal observation, no actual data to back it up - and have a depleted secondary. This may be the game to force the issue at the line to help the defensive backfield. Shepherd will get open if Mayfield has all day to throw.

Advanced Stats

Jeff's charts are below. You should also check out the statistical profiles pages for Oklahoma and K-State. Very helpful resource from Bill Connelly.

K-State Offense vs. Oklahoma Defense

Kansas State Offense vs. Oklahoma Defense

Oklahoma Offense vs. K-State Defense

Oklahoma Offense vs. Kansas State Defense

Conclusion

Two straight tough losses and the injury bug have left me skeptical. Both Vegas, down to a -3.5 line for OU, and Bill Connelly, S&P+ picks favor Oklahoma in a tossup, see this as a close game. That's probably the case, and against an atypical Sooner squad that isn't wrecking shop like the fans in Norman are accustomed to, there's a decent chance for K-State to win this one at home.

Can K-State take advantage of OU's line struggles to shut down the Sooner rushing game and put the game on Mayfield's arm? If they do, can the depleted secondary keep Shepherd in check? Can K-State run the ball effectively? If they do, then will the coaches stick with it?

If the answers to three of those four questions are in K-State's favor, then the Wildcats probably get a win.

Sooners 30, Wildcats 24