Conference play has finally arrived and Oklahoma very much looks the part of front-runner to land a spot in Arlington for the Big 12 championship game. Through the first three contests this year the Sooners are scoring an average of 42.3 points per game while allowing opponents an average of just 10 points. The Wildcats have found plenty of success against OU in the last five years and, even coming off a loss to Tulane last week, will be a good indicator to how Oklahoma will stack up against Big 12 competition.
Can Oklahoma’s Offensive Line Protect Dillon Gabriel
Last week was a test for the Oklahoma defense as they faced a Nebraska offense that had been averaging 36 points per game. The defense passed that test with flying colors and now it’s the offense that is set to be tested this week by a Wildcat defense that has been very good through the first three games.
Kansa State is surrendering just 9.7 points per game this season and is holding opponents to less than 300 total yards of offense on average. Just moving the ball has been difficult against Kansas State this season much less scoring points. Part of what makes this Wildcat defense so difficult to play against is their ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. KSU is averaging multiple quarterback sacks per game this season and has already compiled a total of 24 tackles for loss through the first three games. Averaging those types of numbers pretty much guarantees that the Wildcats defense will put some stress on Oklahoma’s offensive line. It goes without saying that keeping Dillon Gabriel upright and allowing him the opportunity to distribute the ball will be pretty crucial to OU’s success.
Having Wanya Morris back last week gave Oklahoma’s offensive line a boost. They’ll need every bit of the attitude and power that comes from the right tackle’s 6-6/310 frame against the K-State defensive front.
Can The Sooners Keep Deuce Vaughn Contained?
The key to defending the Kansas State offense is containing Deuce Vaughn. The Wildcats have struggled in the vertical passing game this season, averaging just 4.9 yards per pass attempt, but what has worked for them in Deuce Vaughn. The 5-6/176 junior from Round Rock, Texas is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, 117.3 rushing yards per game, and has crossed the goal line three times already this season. He may be small but he’s a handful. His 352 rushing yards leads the Big 12 through the first three weeks of the season and a good day for him on the ground most likely means a bad day for the opponent in terms of the final score.
In Kansas State’s two wins this season Vaughn topped the one hundred mark, including a season-best 145 against Missouri. In last week’s loss to Tulane the Green Wave held Vaughn to just 81 rushing yards and a season-low 4.1 yards per carry. You stop the Wildcats by stopping Vaughn. The defensive line has to win at the point of attack, ends and rush backers have to contain, and linebackers have to clean up. This all becomes a bit more difficult with the Wildcats also possessing a running quarterback but if Tulane can do you then you’d have to think the Sooners are certainly capable as well.
Can Oklahoma Continue To Avoid Turning The Ball Over?
Oklahoma has been exceptional in protecting the football to start the season. Through the first three games the only Sooner turnover has come from backup quarterback Davis Beville during the garbage time portion of last week’s destruction of Nebraska. On the other hand, Kansas State has been exceptional at forcing turnovers. The Wildcat defense has logged 7 interceptions already and 22 of the 84 points scored by KSU this season have been set up by turnovers.
Tight coverage and pressure on the quarterbacks has been what leads to seeing mistakes happen. The Wildcats have recorded seven quarterback sacks and eight quarterback hurries, contributing to the seven picks and nine other occasions when a defender got his hand on the ball in coverage. Three different Wildcat defenders have multiple picks this season and they’ll certainly be looking for more on Saturday night in an effort to swing momentum and pull off another upset in Norman.
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