(19) Oklahoma (5-2) at Iowa State (2-5) (ET)
GAME NOTES: Having had a couple of weeks to regroup following their second loss of the season, the 19th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners return to action this Saturday as they visit the Iowa State Cyclones in Big 12 Conference action.
Oklahoma dropped a heartbreaking 31-30 decision at home to Kansas State on Oct. 18, saddling the squad with its second conference loss -- the other being a 37-33 setback at TCU two weeks earlier. The Sooners need to win out and get a ton of help to get back in the Big 12 title race, as they will face Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State following this clash.
Iowa State also enjoyed a bye last weekend, that coming after the team dropped a nailbiter of its own in a 48-45 final at Texas. The loss was the Cyclones' fifth of the season, and their only two wins came at intrastate rival Iowa (20-17) on Sept. 13, and at home versus Toledo (37-30) on Oct. 11. Oklahoma is the fourth ranked team coach Paul Rhodes' squad will have faced this season, and a win here would mark its first over the Sooners since 1990, and its first at home against Oklahoma since 1960.
Oklahoma owns a commanding 71-5-2 record all-time versus Iowa State, which includes victories in the last 15 meetings. The Sooners have won 21 straight in Ames.
Oklahoma is a solid team in all phases of the game, ranking third in the conference in both scoring offense (39.0 ppg) and scoring defense (22.9 ppg). Samaje Perine has been a force with the ball is his hands, as he sits second in the Big 12 in rushing (657 yards, 10 TDs), helping the Sooners average 192 ypg on the ground. Quarterback Trevor Knight hasn't had the type of season he had hoped, but he has been effective in completing roughly 60 percent of his passes for 1,821 yards, nine TDs and six INTs. Sterling Shepard paces the receiving corps with 49 grabs for 911 yards and five scores.
Defensively, the Sooners' strength comes when the opposition decides to run the football as they permit only 122.3 ypg and have allowed a mere six rushing TDs, both of which are the third-fewest in the league. Jordan Evans spearheads the unit with 56 tackles, while Dominique Alexander is close behind with 54. Collectively, Oklahoma has notched 19 sacks, and the team ranks second in the Big 12 in turnover margin (+6).
It was a rough day for usually reliable kicker Michael Hunnicutt in the loss to Kansas State, as he missed a pair of field goals and had an extra point blocked. The special teams mishaps were particularly painful when you consider the Sooners rolled up 533 yards of total offense compared to only 385 for the Wildcats. Knight threw for 318 yards and three TDs, but OU was guilty of the only two turnovers of the game. Also wasted in the loss was the effort of Shepard who pulled down 15 balls for 197 yards and a TD. Perine finished with 89 yards and a score on 24 carries.
Despite the poor showing by his kicker, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops still has full confidence in Hunnicutt.
"I put my arm around him in the locker room. I feel for him because that sticks out, but there is more [to the loss] than that."
Stoops also spoke about the spot his team is in now after coming into the season with such high expectations.
"Am I surprised? No. I know we can always be beat. It's easy to think that way when you're not the one that has to do it. Nothing surprises me."
Iowa State's offense doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators, as the team churns out just 364 ypg. The run has been the biggest issue for Rhodes' squad, as it ranks last in the league with an average of only 117.1 ypg. Quarterback Sam B. Richardson has done it all for the Cyclones, as he is hitting the mark on 61.1 percent of his passes for 242.7 ypg with 13 TDs and only six INTs, while also pacing the rushing attack with 319 yards, finding the end zone twice as well. Aaron Wimberly has scored four TDs on the ground, but the team as a whole is averaging just 3.6 ypc.
On the other side of the ball, the Cyclones have their share of trouble as well with foes lighting up the scoreboard for 35.3 ppg while amassing 455.7 ypg. Save for a solid series here and there, they have been equally inept against both forms of attack, surrendering 209 ypg on the ground and a league- high 24 rushing TDs, while being torched for 246.7 ypg through the air, but only four aerial scores. Unfortunately, they've only come up with five INTs and 11 sacks. Jevohn Miller leads the unit with 68 tackles, while both T.J. Mutcherson and Nigel Tribune have two picks apiece.
Texas got a late field goal to pull out the three-point win a couple weeks back, but the Cyclones did themselves proud by outgaining the Longhorns, 524-512. They got outstanding individual efforts from Richardson (36-of-55, 345 yards, three TDs, two INTs, one rushing TD), Wimberly (14 carries, 110 yards, TD), and receivers E.J. Bibbs (10 rec., 73 yards, two TDs), D'Vario Montgomery (nine rec., 100 yards) and Allen Lazard (eight rec., 88 yards, TD).
Mutcherson and Tribune led the ISU defense with nine tackles apiece, nearly all of which were unassisted, while Miller (seven solo stops) scooped up a fumble and returned it 51 yards for a TD at the outset of the second quarter. The Cyclones tallied six TFL in the game, but only one sack.
Iowa State has lost 10 in a row to ranked foes, and it doesn't appear as if that streak is going to come to an end this week. That doesn't mean the Cyclones aren't going to put forth maximum effort in front of the hometown faithful, but the Sooners are simply the better team in every facet of the game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma 30, Iowa State 17