From a purely analytical standpoint, Kansas State is usually one of my favorite teams to break down each season. I don’t particularly care for that old snake Bill Snyder, but his squads always play really solid football in all phases. The Wildcats don’t do anything all that flashy. However, their execution generally rocks some major.
I didn’t have nearly enough time this week to dedicate to anything resembling a proper preview. You’ll have to settle for a few nuggets prior to kickoff. (I know you have been on the edge of your seat.)
*I’ll go ahead and say it: Daniel Sams is one of my favorite quarterbacks in the Big 12.
Sams filled in admirably for Collin Klein when called upon last year, but Bill Snyder’s rotation of Sams and Jake Waters looked putrid early this season. As the year has progressed, both quarterbacks appear to have found their footing. Waters handles more of the passing situations, while Sams functions primarily as a threat on the ground.
Snyder runs many of the same single wing concepts with Sams that he ran with Klein. However, whereas Snyder swung Klein at defenses like an ax, Sams is a shiftier runner with better burst when he gets around the edge. I expect that he will present the biggest problems for the Sooners when he’s operating out of the shotgun in empty or one-back sets. For example, check out this touchdown run in last week’s game against TCU:
The Wildcats are in a heavy personnel package with an inline tight end to the left side of the formation and an offset fullback to the weak side.
Sams runs a variation on QB Power with the fullback helping lead the way. Note that the tight end has run off one of the safeties on seam route.
Sams takes off around left end and heads for pay dirt. Keep in mind that he could also pull up and hit the tight end should that safety crash down to help stop the run.
*What should we expect from the OU defense? Personally, I don’t see much reason to play five defensive backs together on the field at the same time unless it’s an obvious passing situation. I’d rather see the Sooners entrust their cover men to defend KSU’s receivers one on one and dedicate bodies to stopping the run.
Here's an example of what this looked like versus Texas when the Longhorns ran a double-tight formation:
In this case, defensive end P.L. Lindley has subbed in for safety Julian Wilson and is playing the equivalent of a strongside linebacker in a true 3-4 alignment. This just gives the D more beef for taking on the Wildcats blockers, who are plenty beefy in their own right.
(Yes, I realize that Texas got its jollies on the ground when OU ran this personnel grouping. Do you have any better ideas?)
Playing a conventional 3-3-5 scheme on Saturday would be begging to get throttled.
*As for the offense, who the hell knows at this point? I don’t think anyone has seen enough of Trevor Knight to say definitively that he can’t beat Purple Kansas with his arm. Unfortunately, that’s probably what he will have to do.
The Wildcats will focus on stopping the run and zero in on the read option, which is Knight’s true forte. That should leave KSU vulnerable down the middle of the field. Furthermore, Ty Zimmerman, KSU's star safety, almost assuredly won't play. TCU picked on his understudy, junior Dylan Schellenberg, repeatedly once Zimmerman went down, and the Horned Frogs found plenty of success doing so.
*Speaking in the philosophic, Snyder clearly believes in giving opposing offenses the opportunity to screw up before he does. His teams tend to play an umbrella zone on the back end that concedes short passing routes. Not surprisingly, it is both boring and effective.
Assuming the Wildcats stick to their knitting, it will be incumbent on OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel to get Knight comfortable against a D that can leverage his inaccuracy.