The Kansas State football team (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) will return home on Saturday to host the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) after being routed by Oklahoma State (4-0, 1-0) on the road this past weekend.
The Sooners are 4-0 coming off a last-second win against West Virginia (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) in which they never really looked impressive. In fact, Oklahoma has wins of five points, seven points and three points against some pretty mediocre FBS opponents this year. The fourth win came in a 76-0 blowout of an overmatched FCS squad.
Headed once again by Mike Leach protégé Lincoln Riley, the Sooners also return a lot of the skill-position talent off this past year’s Big 12 Championship squad.
The Sooners look like a 3-3-5 defense on paper, but in practice, they are a 4-2-5 team with the fourth “lineman” — they call the position “RUSH” — filled by 6 foot 3 inches, 240-pound linebacker Nik Bonitto.
Bonitto anchors the short-side edge of the line and has one job — get to the quarterback. They also use him as a decoy, dropping him into coverage and bringing a fourth rusher from somewhere else.
They use a lot of pre-snap motion on the defensive side to throw off offensive lines and try to disguise blitzes and coverages. That pass rush also features stunts and twists to try to get to the quarterback quicker.
West Virginia had success this past week with quick slant and out-routes as well as read options to try to take the edges and pass rushers out of the game. K-State should be more than capable of that, regardless of who is at quarterback.
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Quarterback controversy in Norman? No. Despite the OU student section chanting for former No. 1-recruit Caleb Williams to be put in this past week, Spencer Rattler is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. He showed it in the final possession of the game against West Virginia, where he was 6-for-6 and took the Sooners from their own 8-yard line to the WVU 12-yard line for a game-winning field goal.
Rattler has elite weapons to target out of their primarily shotgun, spread formation. They tend towards a single running back next to Rattler and four receivers out wide. The Sooners also will use a fullback/tight end hybrid called an H-back to add a little beef when needed.
Against WVU, they rushed for just 57 yards but threw for 256 and a touchdown in a pass-heavy attack. However, they have struggled this year on offense — FCS-blowout notwithstanding — rushing for 2.4 yards per attempt and throwing for just 6.3.
Keep up the trend:
K-State’s defense looked like a wet paper sack at times against an otherwise anemic offense this past week. They could not keep a bad offense bad. This week, the defense will need to do just that by limiting Rattler through the air.
K-State’s secondary will need to be much better in coverage and probably intercept Rattler at some point. He’s a gunslinger and K-State has shown the ability to be opportunistic this year.
This is a game K-State can compete in from the trenches. The Wildcat offensive line has the size to compete with the Sooners’ tackles, and their defensive line has been a stalwart to rushing offenses all season.
K-State will need to push around the Sooners in a physical, low-scoring affair if they want to have a chance.
This should go without saying, but until Skylar Thompson is back (his status is still unclear for this weekend) K-State will need to find ways to score that don’t rely on second and third-string quarterbacks.
A kickoff return, punt return or defensive touchdown early could give K-State the momentum it needs in a close battle.
K-State is vying for a third-straight win over the Big 12’s top program. I don’t think the Wildcats get it with their current slate of injured players. Rattler and his receivers run circles around K-State’s decimated defense for a 24-14 win.