Through the first two months of the season, No. 5 Oklahoma has been practically untouchable. The closest the Sooners have come to losing came earlier this month in the Cotton Bowl against No. 15 Texas, and even that game was never as close as the score indicated. But now in the thick of Big 12 play, Oklahoma heads on the road three times over its final five games. The first road trip takes place this Saturday against Kansas State, led by first-year coach Chris Kleiman.
The former North Dakota State coach has been doing a nice job succeeding Bill Snyder and a competitive game against the Big 12’s top team, if not an outright win, would give this program a lot of confidence moving forward.
Can the Wildcats dial one up and score the upset over the playoff-hopeful Sooners? Let’s take a closer look at what to expect on Saturday and make some expert picks against the spread.
Oklahoma: After a one-week “dip” in production, quarterback Jalen Hurts was back to doing Jalen Hurts things against West Virginia. The Heisman Trophy candidate had his most ridiculous game yet, completing 16-of-17 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. That led to his season-best 308.5 passer rating. He also had five total touchdowns. He’ll be in the spotlight again against a Kansas State defense that is No. 1 in the Big 12 in passing yards per game allowed and passer rating. If the Sooners do need to lean more heavily on the run — they already have the conference’s most efficient ground game by a sizable margin — expect Hurts and the rotating group of running backs to wear down the Wildcats.
Kansas State: So far, Kleiman’s debut season has been solid. The Wildcats are headed towards bowl eligibility and this is already a much-improved team from Snyder’s last season. However, they struggled against one of the Big 12’s top teams, No. 14 Baylor. To have a shot against Oklahoma, K-State will lean on senior running back James Gilbert. He’s the team’s top rusher with 453 yards and four touchdowns. However, the ‘Cats are a heavy running team in general with plenty of options to carry the load. Oklahoma’s defense is significantly better this season under first-year coordinator Alex Grinch, but K-State has the beef to make this a long day for the Sooners.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 26 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Bill Snyder Family Stadium — Manhattan, Kansas
TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Game prediction, picks
Both of these offenses favor the run and will try to assert themselves in the trenches. The difference is Oklahoma is way more explosive in doing so. At home, Kansas State can punch up a weight class and make things interesting, but the Sooners would have to have an off week for the Wildcats to pull off the outright upset. There are just too many things to defend with this Oklahoma team. Still, three touchdowns is significant and the hook leads me to believe Kansas State can cover. Pick: Kansas State +21.5