🏈 Hitting the road
What each unit needs to do to help Oklahoma win on Saturday, plus ranking Week 5's Big 12 slate.
✌🏽 Happy Friday, friends. There’s a football game tomorrow in Manhattan, Kansas. Let’s ride.
🤔 Trivia: When was Bob Stoops' final season at Kansas State before leaving to take over as Florida’s defensive coordinator? [Answer in footnotes]
🔑 Keys to the game
Before the season started, Oklahoma’s game against Kansas State was guaranteed to be a tough spot for the Sooners. OU’s game before Texas always seems like a trap, but against a team that’s had OU’s number the last two seasons? That’s not ideal.
You know what else isn’t ideal? Lincoln Riley’s offense choosing to dip just as soon as the Sooners’ defense looks like one of the best units in the country. Perhaps the Sooners figure out some semblance of balance this weekend, but it’s hard to feel good when OU has as many issues as it does.
To simplify things, here’s where I’m at with each unit and what they need to do to win on Saturday:
Key for OU’s offense: Run the dang ball. The Sooners likely won’t have a choice with the weather, but this feels like a spot where Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray can really shine. This is assuming Bill Bedenbaugh makes changes along the offensive line, which he wasn’t afraid to do late against West Virginia. But in a similar way, I think OU’s short passing game might be more to their benefit than ever. Give Gray some space out in the flats and see what he can do. More than anything, don’t leave everything up to Spencer Rattler.
Key for OU’s defense: Stick around for all four quarters. The Sooner defense has seen plenty what it’s like to take your foot off the gas with a big lead. Take a look at last year’s Kansas State game. While I think the parts to the defense are phenomenal, there is a consistency issue with this defense. Some of that gets mixed in with busted plays because of a schematic flaw. I just think if your Alex Grinch, you want to see a defense that looks comfortable in what it’s doing for 60 minutes.
Key for OU’s special teams: Kansas State can do some scary things in the return game. Deuce Vaughn and Malik Knowles are the main guys there. The Sooners haven’t had much of an issue with their special teams unit as a whole, but the threat Kansas State poses is a bit unique with the speed it has.
💭 The Pick
Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 17. I don’t feel great about it. I always thought picks should come with some sort of confidence rating back when I did them professionally for a newspaper’s sports section. I think this Kansas State team is good, but you’ll see much of the same inept offense from last week if Skylar Thompson isn’t available. Give me the Sooners winning with defense again.
📺 Big 12 on TV
Another solid conference slate on deck, as well as plenty of games outside the Big 12 to pay attention to on Saturday. Perfect weekend for an OU road game, so we can all just sit in front of a television for 12 hours as our good lord intended.
Anyway, here’s how I’m prioritizing the Big 12 games:
No. 21 Baylor at No. 19 Oklahoma State (6 p.m., ESPN2): If you gave me odds that Oklahoma State and Baylor’s Week 5 clash would be a ranked matchup, I’m not sure there’s a world where I wouldn’t bet that doesn’t happen. Yet, here we are. The Bears and Cowboys are fresh off of wins over Iowa State and Kansas State, respectively. Both teams are undefeated, and while they’ve played fairly easy schedules so far, this game ought to tell us a lot about who’s a real threat to the Big 12.
Texas at TCU (11 a.m., ABC): Another game where I have no clue what’s going to happen. Perhaps this is too much of me wearing the Oklahoma shades, but nothing about Texas’ wins over Rice and Texas Tech convince me things are back on track in Austin. Seeing how SMU moved the ball on TCU, though, Texas has a shot to do the same thing. Perhaps a good, ole shootout is on deck.
No. 6 Oklahoma at Kansas State (2:30 p.m., FOX): So, the Sooners are in Manhattan this weekend and are 10.5-point favorites. Considering the weather expected in the area, OU might be forced to run the ball and play a shorter game. That might be a benefit to Oklahoma, which has pretty much only played low-scoring games built on draining clock and scoring only when completely necessary.
Texas Tech vs. West Virginia (2:30 p.m., ESPN2): I’ll be honest, this game does little for me. The Red Raiders are going through it, while the Mountaineers seem to be a good team that can’t quite finish games. Perhaps it will come down to a final drive, but this game is just awful compared to the rest of the 2:30 p.m. window, which features OU-Kansas State, Ole Miss-Alabama, Oregon-Stanford and Ohio State-Rutgers.
Kansas at Iowa State (6 p.m., FS1): FS1 is probably the last channel you want your team to play on, but even this game isn’t worthy of it. How was this not selected for ESPN+?
⏰ On this day
119 years ago today, Oklahoma beat "Guthrie Town Team" 62-0 to open the 1902 season. The Sooners were coached by Mark McMahon, who is widely credited with modernizing OU’s scheduling. The Sooners never played more than five games in one season before McMahon’s tenure.
1995. Stoops coached at Kansas State from 1989-95. He served as defensive backs coach for two seasons before he was promoted to defensive coordinator.