For the second weekend in a row Oklahoma will face a strong defensive front. Saturday’s matchup between the Sooners and Cyclones feature’s the Big 12’s top scoring defense and the top defense in the conference in yards allowed. OU heads into this game allowing an average of just 8.5 points per game, while ISU is allowing it’s opponents an average of just 292.5 yards of offense per game. This could easily be billed as a defensive game, but with it shake out that way? Here are five predictions for the Sooners and Cyclones.
1. Oklahoma Finally Gets The Running Game Established
The Sooners have produced a 100-yard rusher just once this season. That’s when Tawee Walker went for 117 yards on 21 carries against SMU. OU comes into Saturday night averaging 157.8 yards per game on the ground, but it’s mostly been by committee. Last week, at Cincinnati, it was Marcus Major getting a season-high 15 carries, while Walker managed just five. Jovantae Barns and Gavin Sawchuk were no shows in the Queen City last week, which begs the question – Who is Oklahoma’s feature running back?
I think we finally have that answer on Saturday night. Mostly because Texas is on the horizon and if the Sooners want to pull an upset in the Cotton Bowl then they’ll have to run the football. That leaves this game as the final opportunity to fine tune things before the Red River Rivalry. Basically, it’s now or never for Oklahoma’s running game. I’m a firm believer that whatever we see unfold in Norman on Saturday night is what we’re going to have for the remainder of the season.
Iowa State is holding opponents to an average of 115.3 yards per game on the ground this season. I’m predicting that Oklahoma exceeds that number, and they do it by finally establishing a feature running back.
2. Oklahoma’s Defense Will Dominate Iowa State’s Run Game
On the other side of the ball, I would expect Oklahoma’s defense to continue to dominate against the run. They made a concentrated effort to shutdown a Cincinnati rushing attack that was ranked Top 5 nationally last week. Iowa State hasn’t been close to the Bearcats in production on the ground. As a team, the Cyclones are averaging just 83.3 yards per game on the ground, at a pace of 2.9 yards per carry.
Oklahoma’s defense has been swallowing up the rushing attack of its opponents. The Sooners are allowing an average of just 95.3 yards per game on the ground and 2.69 yards per carry. This looks like a classic matchup between the strength of a defense vs. the weakness of an offense. The Sooners should have a massive advantage here.
3. This Game Will Hit The Over
I led off this post talking about how this is a massive defensive battle of paper, but I don’t necessarily think it’s going to play out that way. Last week, Oklahoma State scored 27 points on Iowa State’s defense. The Cowboys aren’t necessarily lighting up the scoreboard in 2023. The 27 points matches their season high, and it’s the third time they’ve posted that number. That said, the Cyclones haven’t faced an offense with the capabilities of Oklahoma and I’m anticipating a 5-plus touchdown day for the Sooners. That alone, eats up the majority of the 48.5 points on the over/under.
4. Oklahoma’s Offense Trends Back Up
If you’re into following trends, there’s something interesting happening with the Sooner offense. They exploded out of the gate against Arkansas State, and then slowed down quite a bit against SMU. Then they exploded again against Tulsa, only to score a season-low 20 points last weekend against Cincinnati. If the trends hold, this is the weekend for another explosive performance. I don’t think the Sooners are going to exceed the 60-point barrier, like they did in Games 1 and 3, because I believe they’re going to make a more concentrated effort to run the football. That said, as I mentioned above, I believe 35 points is going to be the floor for Oklahoma’s scoring production on Saturday. That gets them out of the 20-point zone where they’ve been in weeks 2 and 4.
5. A Member Of Oklahoma’s Defensive Secondary Will Lead In Tackles
Not fully knowing the status of Reggie Pearson keeps me from really naming one specific person in the secondary. If I had to make a pick I think I would go with Dasan McCullough, but then again there’s not 100% certainty in Justin Harrington’s health and how that could affect McCullough’s playing time.
The thing is, I think Iowa State is going to recognize it’s inability to run the football, and apart from a token rushing attempt here and there, they will look to the passing attack as their best chance for success. The other thing with looking at the Cyclone defense is that, after four weeks, we’re going to see opponents scheming to stay away from Sooner linebacker Danny Stustman. To me, this sets up for a member of Oklahoma’s secondary to be the leading tackler and the free safety and cheetah positions seem to be the most likely candidates.
What Did I Miss?
Okay, what did I miss? Leave us your predictions for the game in the comment section below.
Follow us on Twitter: @SportsHeartland