Five things I'll have my eyes on Saturday when Kansas State travels to Norman for a date with the Sooners.
1. Running Waters
It’s difficult to explain what makes Kansas State’s offense unique, which probably has a lot to do with why it has been pretty effective in the last four or five seasons. My best effort: Whereas as plenty of teams feature the threat of the quarterback running as part of their offensive schemes, Bill Snyder appears to have built his offense with the QB running at its foundation.
KSU starts with the threat that Jake Waters will carry the ball and goes from there with a smattering of package plays. Aside from a wildcat package that KSU uses in the red zone, the Wildcats make it difficult to identify what they might be up to before the snap – and after it.
Here’s a particularly fiendish example:
I won’t pretend to know the best way to scheme for that within the confines of Oklahoma’s defense. I would be wary of the secondary getting sucked up, allowing Tyler Lockett and the rest of KSU’s receivers to run free behind them.
2. Can the Wildcats keep from getting pushed around?
Whereas the Sooners had plenty of success pounding the rock early in the year, Oklahoma’s running game only had some spurts of effectiveness in the last two weeks. Aside from being well-coached, TCU and Texas both have some size on the defensive lines. UT’s talented front four averages nearly 290 pounds per player, including tackles checking in at 307 and 320. TCU’s d-line runs 277 pounds per man on average, and both tackles tip the scales at 305.
K-State: 267.5 pounds on average in the front four. The Wildcat DTs are 285 and 290.
Oklahoma’s mammoth offensive linemen could mash KSU up front.
3. Alex Ross… Yes, Alex Ross
In keeping with the run game theme, I wouldn’t be shocked to see offensive coordinator Josh Heupel focus on moving the ball on the ground between the tackles in light of the aforementioned size advantage. A year ago, OU had plenty of success on dives and gives to Brennan Clay, who ran through holes in the interior of the line for 200 yards.
Ross has taken a back seat to freshman battering ram Samaje Perine in the running game. That’s due in large measure to Ross’ inability to pick his spots and elude tacklers. On the other hand, a game plan that calls for the back to hit a specific hole and sounds right up the speedy Jenks product’s alley.
Don’t be shocked if Ross breaks off a long touchdown run at some point Saturday.
4. Inside (receivers) job
Purple Kansas struggled to contain Iowa State slot receiver Jarvis West earlier this year in a hard-fought win over the Cyclones. When OU goes to its three- and four-wide sets, the Sooners could have some opportunities to exploit favorable matchups featuring star wideout Sterling Shepard and dynamic freshman Michiah Quick.
Furthermore, when Blake Bell splits out wide, he’s going to enjoy a size advantage against whomever gets the call to guard the big tight end.
5. Surviving Snyder
Typically, with an extra week to prepare, Bill Snyder is deadly. He has undoubtedly scouted the hell out of the Sooners and devised a few wrinkles to take advantage of any deficiencies that he’s noted. (Looking at you, safeties.)
While Snyder has made his money as an offensive strategist, I’ll bet you a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl windbreaker that he gave his his defensive plenty of input on what OU’s O does and doesn’t do well.
The Sooners need to be on guard early in the game and get a feel for what KSU is trying to do. In-game adjustments will be key – along with whatever OU's coaches have done in the past seven days to clean up the problems that have reared their heads in the last two weeks.