Oklahoma is in high gear, again. The Sooners head into Saturday's matchup with Iowa State on a roll. And they hope to keep it going.
1. Focus: Sooner fans will get a better glimpse of just how good this OU team is Saturday evening in Norman. Coming off an easy win at Kansas and with Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma Stare in the immediate future it would be easy to overlook Iowa State who's done something Oklahoma couldn't do this season and that's beat Texas. Hopefully, OU will take nothing for granted and stay focused on the business at hand and that's running the table which is going to be daunting to say the least.
2. Cyclone running game: ISU ran the ball well in beating Texas last week amassing their fifth, 200-yard rushing game in their last six. OU's high- powered offense can't hurt anyone if it is standing on the west sideline so expect ISU to attempt to establish the run early. Lawton's Mike Warren, a redshirt freshman, gained 157 yards rushing against Texas and the native Oklahoman will no doubt be motivated to play the game of his life against the Sooners. Warren has five 100-yard games and wasn't offered a full ride at OU. How bad will Warren want to win this game?
3. Joel Lanning: Iowa State's redshirt sophomore quarterback, 6-foot-, 232 pounds, is the player Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads insisted on former offensive coordinator Mark Mangino starting that led to the former OU OC being replaced. Inexperienced quarterbacks should have a challenging task playing for the first time in Norman, especially at night, but that's entirely up to the Sooner defense and the OU fans to make QB Lanning feel unwelcome. Can the Sooners start quickly on defense and play with an edge against an opponent they should easily beat?
4. Baker Mayfield: The sauce on the OU ribs but he still needs to get rid of the football quicker if he expects to survive murderer's row over the last rest of the season and lead OU to four more wins in 2015. Mayfield has been marvelous and he continues to master the OU offense and develop all important chemistry with his receivers.
5. Sooner offensive line: Getting better and gaining confidence but they are banged up and it will be interesting to see who gets playing time this weekend. The health and confidence of the young, offensive line is critical in finding their way to the Promised Land especially against teams with none or one loss still remaining on the schedule. Coach Bill Bedenbaugh has done a masterful job with his youthful group especially considering that seniors Ty Darlington and Nila Kasatati have been banged up.
6. LOS: The Line of Scrimmage is, as always, critical to win and last week Iowa State whipped Texas up front so bad that if it had been a fight it would have been stopped. With OU's offensive line young and evolving, the Cyclones defensive front has a legit shot to help their team stay in the game much longer than necessary. Keep an eye on the ISU D-Line penetrating and spending ample time in the OU backfield especially early. On the other side of the ball, Texas only crossed the 50-yard line twice last week in Ames. It could be a big night for seniors Charles Tapper and Eric Striker as ISU has allowed a league high 26 sacks this season.
7. Home-field advantage: What does that exactly mean at OU games? Will the crowd be in the stadium early and be loud from the get go? Will the student section make its presence felt from the opening kickoff until the game is over? This team has two home games remaining and it would be a shame if every seat wasn't occupied with boisterous and rowdy Sooner fanatics. One would think that the later kickoff time would help the "atmosphere."
HBC Bob Stoops has never lost to Iowa State since arriving in Norman in 1999. I don't expect that steak to be broken Saturday evening but ISU will be confident after shutting out the Steers last week and will play aggressively against OU, which was favored by 25.5 points the last that I looked. What does Iowa State have to lose?
It's imperative that OU keep the momentum that they have built since their October trip to the Cotton Bowl as they ready themselves for Baylor, TCU, and Okie State. It comes back to the Sooners being focused and playing smart, Slobber Knocker football in a game that Oklahoma MUST win.
Prediction: OU 48, ISU 17
Jim Ross @JRsBBQ
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