My pessimism was finally thwarted last week when K-State got a desperately needed win over reeling TCU*. The win was K-State’s second this year against Power 5 competition, but continued a worrying trend in which the Wildcats were outgained by 80+ yards in each of those contests (h/t to 2.1 for that tidbit).
*Who is, somehow, favored to beat Texas this week?!?!
That trend is likely to continue this week against the Oklahoma Sooners. Under Lincoln Riley, the offense barely seems to miss last year’s Heisman winner, Kyler Murray, humming along at a cool 613 yards and 50.4 points per game, both national leaders. In other words, K-State may do well to get outgained only by 180 yards in this one.
Players to Watch
Passing: Skylar Thompson, 80-133-1, 994 yards, 7.5 yards/attempt, 7 TDs, 165.7 yards/game
Rushing: James Gilbert, 87 carries, 453 yards, 5.2 yards/carry, 4 TDs, 75.5 yards/game
Receiving: Dalton Schoen, 18 receptions, 254 yards, 14.1 yards/reception, 3 TDs, 42.3 yards/game
Passing: Jalen Hurts, 114-154-3, 2,074 yards, 13.5 (!) yards/attempt, 20 (!) TDs, 296.3 yards/game
Rushing: Jalen Hurts, 84 carries, 705 yards, 8.4 yards/carry, 10 TDs, 100.7 yards/game
Receiving: CeeDee Lamb, 31 receptions, 681 yards, 22.0 yards/reception, 10 TDs, 97.3 yards/game
I don’t know what you even say about OU’s offense anymore. Those numbers are thoroughly stupid.
With Hurts directing the offense, Riley has an element that hasn’t previously been a feature of the offense: the quarterback run game. That doesn’t mean Murray and Baker Mayfield didn’t run for solid numbers. But those numbers were typically scrambles by excellent athletes, whereas the 6’2” and 218 lbs. Hurts brings a power run element. Think Collin Klein, but with five-star receivers.
Oklahoma brought in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch in the offseason to fix what had been a catastrophically bad unit. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re “fixed” by OU’s standards, but they rank 27th by SP+. In traditional measures, they’re 28th by yards allowed per game (326), up from 114th (454 yards/game) last season. A unit like this year’s probably would’ve won them national titles the last two seasons.
K-State’s offensive numbers continue their slide in the wrong direction. For a team supposedly based around the ground game, the Wildcats are averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry and have only two touchdowns in three conference games. The overall Success Rate is still respectable at 41st nationally.
Oklahoma profiles as a relatively aggressive defense: strong efficiency numbers, stuff rate and havoc rate. But they’re somewhat susceptible to big plays (90th nationally by explosive rate). That’s not something K-State is likely to take advantage of too often, but a couple big runs to set up scoring opportunities would do wonders for a team otherwise overmatched in this game.
On defense ... woof. For Oklahoma, success is as easy as 1 (overall Success Rate), 2 (passing Success Rate) 3 (rushing Success Rate). K-State’s efficiency numbers are still strong outside of rushing, where they’re only about average. Salvation lay not in big-play prevention, where the Wildcats are 122nd nationally and facing the most-explosive offense in the nation.
K-State’s best chance in this game is the usual formula: slow things down, control the clock, make plays with turnovers and on special teams. And it might work! K-State is fifth nationally by time of possession and has had several key special teams plays this year. Furthermore, OU has given the ball away six times this season.
So it’s not impossible, especially at home, that K-State could hang in and make this something of a game. Let’s be optimistic and say that happens as we build for a stretch run with some winnable games.
Sooners 42, Wildcats 21