In 2011, I'll be honest, I felt somewhat sorry for Kansas State QB Collin Klein. Watching a Kansas State game was painful in that Klein was seemingly taking a hit on every play. If he threw it, he got hit. If he ran it, well, you know what happened.
Sure, the results/stats were eye popping, but I was worried his eyes would pop out on a fourth quarter hit. He had two games with less than 23 rushing attempts in a game and topped out with 35 against Texas A&M in 3 overtimes. Trust me, I thought he could, and maybe would, die that night. It was imperative that Klein not have to carry the offense as much in 2012.
Thus far, the results have been positive. He's averaging only 15.3 attempts rushing per game, topping out at 22 attempts against Miami. Furthermore, he's thrown it only 59 times total in three games. In doing less, Klein has been producing more. He's completing 72.9% of his passes and has a 5 to 2 TD to interception ratio.
Against Oklahoma, Kansas State will go to the Klein well often, there's little doubt in that statement. But, RB John Hubert needs to gash the Sooners up front, to complement Klein's dual threat production. Klein is going to have to fight the urge to pile up 25, 30 or even 35 carries against Oklahoma's defense, but at least this year, his offensive line and Hubert can take some of that heat off of him. For the better, of course.
Flash back to Oklahoma's opener against the vaunted UTEP Miners. Wait, John, did you say vaunted UTEP Miners? Yep. Well, that…John, WHAT? Vaunted UTEP Miners defense? YES. That's what they looked like for much for the opener. UTEP's defensive line made a significant statement against this Oklahoma Sooners…
DID YOU USE "VAUNTED" AND "UTEP" IN THE SAME SENTENCE?!? Okay, I'm done with you.
Simply put, Oklahoma's offensive line should never struggle with UTEP's defensive front. Ever. Four man, base set. Five man rush. Three man rush. You name it, UTEP threw different looks at the inexperienced OU offensive line and OU couldn't handle it.
The question, as it takes us into this matchup with Kansas State, is whether OU's OL couldn't do it that night, but has the potential to play better or if it couldn't and will never be able to stop a good defensive front. The good news for Oklahoma is that Kansas State's defensive front won't remind anyone of Alabama, LSU or Texas. However, it's a better defensive front, by a mile, than UTEP. As such, no group for Oklahoma must shine more in this matchup more than the Oklahoma offensive line.
Hold on, John, I still didn't hear you…did you say…
When it comes to college football, there's so much to like, especially when top ranked teams collide in September with conference pride/positioning/bragging rights on the line. But, when, arguably, the two best players from either team are due to be facing each other all day long, head-to-head, consider me locked in all day long.
Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills facing Kansas State CB Nigel Malone is not only the best WR/DB matchup this weekend, it's one of the best match ups at any position any weekend. Stills has stepped into the void that was left by former All-American WR Ryan Broyles, catching 16 passes in two games for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He's hurt teams deep. He's shown the ability to catch short and run in space for big yards.
He's doing it all right now, but Malone is the type of corner that can make life a little more difficult for Stills. The All-Big 12 corner registered two interceptions in the matchup with Oklahoma last year. As such, when Kansas State plays man coverage against Oklahoma, expect to see #24 (Malone) covering #4 (Stills).
This is a matchup Stills can win deep down the field with his blazing speed, but Malone is as good playing the ball in the air as any corner in the nation. This is what it's all about - mano a mano, one-on-one, good old fashioned you vs. me. Stills v. Malone is worth the price of admission, that's for sure.
The one important figure that I've left out of this discussion that has a great deal to gain in this matchup is Oklahoma QB Landry Jones. The OU signal caller has been flying well under the radar and a 400+ yard/4 TD game through the air will vault him back into the nation's conscience.
Regardless, Oklahoma's defense will get a boost this weekend having All-Big 12 safety Tony Jefferson back in the lineup, the most versatile and best defensive piece the Sooners have on campus.
Likewise, it appears Kansas State will have All-Big 12 LB Arthur Brown back, although head coach Bill Snyder has been a bit coy about his return this week. That said, both teams should be as close to 100% as possible and with the game in Norman, where Jones is ultra-comfortable, the Sooners will wear down Klein, creating turnover possibilities in the fourth quarter, and win their biggest game to date.
Oklahoma - 38 vs. Kansas State - 28