TIME: 6:30 PM CT
LOCATION: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
BETTING LINE: Oklahoma -21
Iowa State Player to Watch:
Iowa State’s offense is going through a difficult season, and their star receiver’s numbers have reflected that. Iowa State’s offensive struggles have caused a significant dip in Lazard’s production, but they haven’t lessened his ever-present explosive potential. Lazard is one of the best playmakers in the Big 12, even if his numbers don’t always show it. If Iowa State could nail down more consistent QB play, Lazard’s numbers would certainly see an eye-popping increase. Lining him up at home, in a primetime game, on a weekday, against Oklahoma’s secondary is like asking to be struck by lightning. Oklahoma’s defensive backs took a big leap forward last week, albeit against Kansas, but that doesn’t invalidate the 750 yards they surrendered to Patrick Mahomes two weeks ago. This matchup creates somewhat of a perfect storm for Lazard, and a big game from him is all but necessary for a potential upset.
Oklahoma Player to Watch:
About a month ago, I published this article questioning the legitimacy of Mayfield’s stardom. Mayfield finished a fantastic 2015 season with a mediocre outing against a great Clemson defense, not completely inexcusable. Slightly more worrisome was the way he began this season, with a good game sandwiched between a pair of awful performances. I pondered the realistic yet terrifying possibility that Mayfield’s entire 2015 season was a fluke, but ultimately concluded that we just needed to wait and see. Well, we waited,and Mayfield showed us exactly what we were hoping to see. Mayfield has stacked up five consecutive performances that perhaps surpass his 2015 greatness. If the season ended today, Mayfield would take control of the single-season record for pass efficiency. With his right hand man, Joe Mixon, suspended, Mayfield will be heavily relied upon to continue hurling coal into Oklahoma’s offensive engine, trying to steamroll Iowa State’s horrendous secondary.
Iowa State Position Group Preview
OFFENSIVE LINE: Iowa State’s offensive line will need to give 110% this week to fend off a terrific Oklahoma pass rush. Otherwise, Joel Lanning and Jacob Park will be in for a long day.
RUNNING BACKS: Mike Warren has all the talent to be a superstar. If he could find some consistent QB play and a decent OL, he might just achieve that someday. For now, his effectiveness will likely be limited by his team’s incompetence.
QUARTERBACKS: Iowa State’s 2-QB system has been fairly effective this season, but they’ll need better than fairly effective to knock off Oklahoma. Fortunately for Lanning and Park, Oklahoma’s defense has been very schizophrenic this year. The only question is which OU defense will show up?
WIDE RECEIVERS: Aside from Lazard, Iowa State’s receivers have suffered from some pretty awful production this season. Why is this? QB incompetence? Lack of receiver talent? Probably a lot of both.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Putting pressure on Mayfield is the easiest way for Iowa State to stop Oklahoma’s offense. Getting through that Sooner OL is where the real problem lies.
LINEBACKERS: Iowa State may not have to worry about Oklahoma’s running backs, but containing Mayfield (or trying to) is always a problem for linebackers.
SECONDARY: Trying to guard Westbrook is difficult enough. To make matters worse, Oklahoma boasts several other talented receivers. Iowa State’s DB’s have a tough task ahead of them.
SPECIAL TEAMS: One of Iowa State’s biggest worries should be defending Westbrook on special teams. Easier said than done I suppose.
COACHING: Matt Campbell is a good coach, but Bob Stoops being out-coached is something that happens about as often as a lunar eclipse.
One of the most effective aspects of Oklahoma’s offensive attack is their incredible balance. They feature a bruising rushing attack and an explosive passing game. What happens when you take one of those away? I guess we’re about to find out. On offense, Oklahoma will rely more heavily on Mayfield than they have all season, which could result in an offensive train wreck, or an offensive explosion (the good kind). They should have no problem scoring on Iowa State’s frail defense, but it will help that the Cyclones don’t have to worry about that powerful Sooner rushing game. On the other side, Oklahoma’s defense has the talent to completely shut down Iowa State, much like they did to Kansas last week. Fortunately for the Cyclones, properly utilizing their talent is at the top of the list of things Oklahoma’s defense has done poorly this season. On paper, Oklahoma should have no problem escaping Ames with a big win, but it’s not that simple. Iowa State has home-field advantage, plus that weird Iowa State weekday voodoo thing, which creates a perfect trap game for the rolling Sooners.
Oklahoma Position Group Previews
OFFENSIVE LINE: The rise of Oklahoma’s OL has been a defining storyline this season. The OL has fought through numerous injuries to try to keep Mayfield safe, and they’ve succeeded tremendously in recent weeks.
RUNNING BACKS: Mixon’s one-game suspension is a major story leading into this game, leaving Oklahoma with just one remaining scholarship RB. Oklahoma’s rushing attack will likely experience a down game this weekend.
QUARTERBACKS: Mayfield is the conductor that orchestrates the beautiful symphony known as Oklahoma’s offense. He’s on some kind of roll right now, and he has every reason to extend it.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Westbrook and Co. have been playing really well lately. The receivers have become an essential part of Oklahoma’s offense.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Oklahoma’s DL was great last week. Don’t be surprised if they continue the trend, terrorizing Iowa State’s weak OL this week.
LINEBACKERS: Oklahoma’s LB were key to the fantastic defensive effort put forth last week. They will need to step up again this week to secure another good performance.
SECONDARY: In a shocking turn of events, Oklahoma’s secondary locked down the opposing team last week. In a not-shocking-at-all turn of events, that team was Kansas.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Westbrook emerged as a true Special Teams star last week (he really can do it all). If he can keep it up, Westbrook can take Oklahoma’s specialists to an elite level.
COACHING: Lincoln Riley and Mike Stoops both called great games last week. Oklahoma’s coaching has been even better than normal in recent weeks.