Dominance is nothing new to the Oklahoma Sooners. They have been winning conference championships since the early days of the program, their first coming in 1915 as a member of the now-dissolved Southwest Conference. Since then, they have spent the last 75 years dominating the Big 6, 7, 8, and now the Big 12, with 41 of their 44 conference championships in that span, including last year’s shared title with K-State.
The Sooners are led by Bob Stoops, who is just one win away from becoming the all-time winningest coach in Oklahoma history. Sitting at 157 wins, there’s no doubt he’d love to capture number 158 against his former mentor Bill Snyder in Manhattan.
The Sooners strength is in their running game and defense. Think Stoops learned something from Snyder?
The Sooners rank second in rushing offense in the Big 12 and 17th nationally with 236.4 yards per game, which is good for them, because their passing offense is ahead of only Kansas in the conference rankings, putting up 187.6 yards per game.
Their running game is a multi-pronged attack, led primarily by senior running backs Brennan Clay and Damien Williams.
Clay, a top recruit out of high school, is having his best season as a Sooner, with 643 yards on 103 attempts for an impressive 6.2 yards per carry and four touchdowns.
Clay’s battery mate Williams is second on the team with 553 yards this season and seven touchdowns. While not as gaudy as Clay’s mark, William has averaged 4.9 yards per rush, a solid number. However, Williams will not play Saturday.
Senior Roy Finch, who came in along with Clay as a highly touted recruit, has seen action in all 10 games, but has half the carries of his two running mates. Nonetheless, he has capitalized on his opportunities, averaging 6.3 yards per carry for 326 yards this season.
As for the quarterback situation, starter Blake Bell was injured last week and will not play, opening the door for backup Trevor Knight. Although Knight has been ineffective of late, like Bell, he can be a threat on the ground. Knight is fourth on the team with 309 yards rushing, while Bell has 255 and is a force in short-yardage situations.
Stopping this running game has been a common thread for teams that want to hang with the Sooners. Their two losses on the season produced their two lowest totals for rushing yards: 131 against Texas and just 87 against Baylor. Another important factor in those losses is that both came away from home.
At home this season, Oklahoma is averaging 283.3 yards per game, but the number is just over 166 when playing games in cities not named Norman, Okla. If they want to win, they will need to find a way to get their running game going in the face of a hostile crowd in search of a big win before heading home for some turkey.
Maybe the biggest reason Oklahoma has been able to run their way to victories is their defense. The Sooners are 13th in the nation in total defense and especially stingy against the pass, allowing just 182.8 yards per game through the air, placing them 10th in the nation.
While they have dealt with some unfortunate injuries this year, especially to linebacker Corey Nelson, they have shown surprising depth, shown by Dominique Alexander, Nelson’s replacement. The freshman has racked up 52 tackles in his five starts since Nelson’s injury, serving an important role next to team tackles leader Frank Shannon in the linebacker corps.
Oklahoma uses their defense to shut down opposing offenses, taking leads into the locker room at halftime and relying on the running game to seal wins.
The Sooners have only been behind twice at end of the first half all season, and both of those games ended in a loss for Oklahoma.
Early offense has been hard to come by for Oklahoma. The Sooners are being outscored 52-33 this season in the first quarter, and have not put any points on the board in the first frame in their last four games. Reversely, they have dominated the second quarter, outscoring opponents 111-50. To beat Oklahoma, K-State must not only grab an early lead, but hold on to that lead in the second quarter, which is a huge challenge.
Oklahoma has lost just two games this season: away games to very good teams who stopped their running game. If they find a way to get their running game going early, then they are a very hard team to stop.