Oklahoma returns home on Saturday to take on Kansas State, a huge game for the Sooners' playoff chances. Here's our weekly preview series focusing on this week's battle with the Wildcats.
Three questions for Oklahoma
1. Can the offense get back on track?
24 points in the last six quarters since the opening touchdown drive of the second half against TCU is not going to get it done for Oklahoma. The Sooners have fallen completely flat on offense and it will be a challenge to get back on track against a good Kansas State defense. The problems aren't difficult to diagnose, but it's another thing to fix them. It hasn't been an issue of talent or having all the right pieces, but rather of execution and getting everyone on the same page at the same time. Young receivers may see significant playing time and the quarterback run game that has been absent pretty much all season may become a bigger part of the plan. At this point, it doesn't really matter what the solution is; the Sooners just need to find one.
2. Will the OU defense be able to contain Kansas State?
Kansas State has a reputation for winning games in methodical ways, but this year, the Wildcats have opened things up a bit, averaging 41 points per game and 444 yards per game. Quarterback Jake Waters has become an excellent passer and is also the Wildcats' leading rusher this season. The Oklahoma defense was shredded by a really average Texas offense last week, something that doesn't bode well for the Sooners' performance against a much better unit. The Sooners have done a poor job getting pressure on the quarterback since the bye week, and all Oklahoma's problems stem from that one issue. If the Sooners can get some pressure on Waters and contain him on the ground, Oklahoma has a great chance in this one.
3. How will the return home provide a boost for the Sooners?
Oklahoma hasn't played a home game since the Sooners' Sept. 13 game against Tennessee. Saturday marks 35 days since that game and it feels like that long. The energy isn't the same, although some of that could be attributed to the Sooners' play the last two weeks. But that can all change this week. The momentum the Sooners can gain from a home crowd that's been sitting at home for five weeks could be immense. There's no doubt this team is talented, and a home game could be what it takes for the Sooners to realize that and put all the pieces together once again.
Three players to watch for Kansas State
1. QB Jake Waters- 1,206 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, 3 INT, 320 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns
Waters has become a very good quarterback over the last two years, not only with his arm, but also with his legs. He's the engine that makes the KSU offense go and has plenty of weapons at his disposal. The Sooners have been gashed the past two weeks by Trevone Boykin and Tyrone Swoopes, both quarterbacks with running ability. If Oklahoma doesn't contain Waters, it could be another long day for the defense.
2. WR Tyler Lockett- 29 receptions, 399 yards, 3 touchdowns
Lockett just destroyed the Sooners last year to the tune of 12 catches for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Oklahoma won despite that performance, but the Sooners will be doing everything in their power to prevent that performance from happening again. Lockett chose to leave Oklahoma after high school at Booker T. Washington and has continually shown the Sooners and Oklahoma State what they missed out on. The Sooners hope that doesn't happen again on Saturday.
3. DE Ryan Mueller- 15 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks
Mueller came onto the scene a year ago when his amazing strip-sack of Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty went viral. Mueller hasn't been as effective this season, but a lot of that has to do with offenses making sure he is accounted for. In fact, none of the Kansas State defenders boast a tremendous stat line this year, a tribute team emphasis in Manhattan. OU, like everyone else, has to be aware of Mueller at all times.
Key matchup: Oklahoma secondary vs. Jake Waters
Besides not getting pressure on the quarterback the past two weeks, the weak spot on the OU defense has been the secondary. There were questions about it coming into the season, but even Julian Wilson and Zach Sanchez, the two players everyone was counting on to produce consistently, have had poor games. The Wildcats have Tyler Lockett, but Curry Sexton is also having a great season. And don't forget about Glenn Gronkowski. Pressure on the quarterback will help the secondary immensely, but they have to do a better job in coverage anyway. If they can keep the KSU receivers under control, it should be a positive result for OU. Kansas State hasn't been particularly effective running the ball this season, so shutting down or limiting the passing game is very important.
Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Kansas State 20
Being home makes all the difference. The Sooners are methodical on both sides of the ball and Trevor Knight completes over 60 percent of his passes. The defense forces three turnovers and scores a touchdown.