The hunt for the Big 12 is far more competitive in 2019 than many would have expected at the beginning of the fall. With many experts and fans slotting either Oklahoma or Texas to capture the conference crown, we are now approaching week 11 with the Big 12 landscape far more varied than originally gauged.
This Saturday’s matchup between Iowa State and the 9th ranked Oklahoma exemplifies this, as the Cyclones meet the Sooners in Norman for this first time since their 38-31 upset win in 2017.
While Lincoln Riley’s Sooners team got off to a red-hot start under the outstanding play of Alabama transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts, their loss two weeks ago to Kansas State quickly had college football enthusiasts remembering past concerns of the Sooners’ poor defense as they were torched by Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson.
Thompson highlighted his running ability by using simple options and QB keepers for a total of four rushing touchdowns, keeping the Oklahoma defense on its heels the entirety of the game.
With a bye week separating them from their lone loss on the year, the Sooners welcome Matt Campbell’s Cyclones back, who sits as 14.5-point dogs in the contest through the online sportsbook BetNow. Iowa State is currently tied with Kansas State and Texas for third place in the conference, with Oklahoma resting at second and undefeated Baylor at the helm.
|Iowa State||+14.5 (-110)||+450||Over 68 (-110)|
|#9 Oklahoma||-14.5 (-110)||-600||Under 68 (-110)|
Breaking Down the Matchup
Campbell’s program has gotten much more attention the past two years due to that win over Riley and 2017’s Heisman Trophy winner, Baker Mayfield. It was the first loss of Riley’s tenure at OU, but the Sooners were able to rally themselves to the College Football Playoff by winning eight straight games, culminating in a Rose Bowl shootout loss to Georgia.
But if one follows the realm of college football close enough, they will notice substantial improvements in all phases for this ISU team. Playing with a physicality that keeps them in just about any fight, the Cyclones’ three losses in 2019 have all been one-score affairs.
“We know the quality of team that’s coming in here,” Riley said. “They’ve lost three games this year, all of them one-score games and certainly watching those games, you could make an argument they probably should’ve won at least a couple of them.”
Iowa State has fared well against the number for the most part as well, accumulating an against the spread mark of 5-3.
It is no secret that Riley and company will take the Cyclones seriously as another loss would derail their slightly-but-not-completely dwindling chances of making the College Football Playoff this January.
In between the holes in the defense and their underwhelming ATS record (4-4), there is plenty of reason to be a tad hesitant when handicapping the Sooners this weekend, especially since betting a team fresh off their bye is always a toss-up.
Iowa State matches up well with Oklahoma compared to much of the Big 12, but the Sooners have the overall edge in athletic talent, spearheaded by Hurts’ dual threat skills (21 passing TDs, 13 rushing TDs this season) and future NFL stud CeeDee Lamb.
With the exception of Alabama wideout Jerry Jeudy, there is no greater playmaking deep threat in the nation than Lamb, who has totaled 816 yards and 11 touchdowns on 36 receptions, averaging 22.7 yards a pop.
Keeping the game tight plays into Iowa State’s favor, as they are better geared to take on Oklahoma in a dog fight. If Hurts, Lamb, and the rest of Riley’s offense get going early however it is likely to get away from the ‘Clones, as few teams in the entire country are built well enough to play “catch up” with the Sooners.
The question lays with what kind of offense Iowa State will bring to the table, as quarterback Brock Purdy has been shaky at times in 2019 despite also being productive in other spots. In his second year with the program, Purdy has thrown for 15 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and despite struggling here and there he has been good enough to lead what is now the 16th ranked offense in the country.
He does not have to be a superhero, but Purdy is going to have to keep pace with the Sooners offense, as Jalen Hurts is one of the best players in college football with a lead and without question will find the endzone more than once throughout regulation.
Before the loss to Kansas State, Hurts was as close to anybody in the country as the Heisman favorite, and it’s hard to believe he won’t have some extra juice in his step given the bounce back spot and returning to the game field after a bye and loss.
Given how so much can change for a college program in two seasons, potential bettors should not put too much stock into the 2017 upset, but rather Oklahoma’s most recent outing.
While only a handful of teams have a Skylar Thompson-type athlete at the quarterback position, the way the Sooners were handled two weeks ago is something that Oklahoma backers will need to be mindful of.
“It’s a copycat game, so yeah, we’ll have to defend some of the things that they did really well. That’s no surprise,” Riley admitted. “The biggest thing they did is they beat us up in long-yardage situations. I feel like we’ve said that a lot in the last couple weeks.”
Despite their high powered offense and poor defense, bettors should pump the brakes on playing the total in this one, as Big 12 games seemingly always have the potential to go over, but this being a rematch leads me to believe that the final will stay under the mark of the lofty 67.5.
The Sooners remain an offensive juggernaut loaded with talent that will be seen on Sundays in a few years, and for what it is worth they are most definitely still in contention in both the conference and playoff stage.
But this team simply isn’t as easy to trust as some of the other power houses in the nation, and their struggles defensively and against the point spread certainly do detract from their success, even with Hurts, Lamb, and Riley being terrific all year long.
Iowa State vs. Oklahoma Prediction
Matt Campbell isn’t one to bring a flat team out for a scenario like this, as not only are the Cyclones technically alive in the Big 12 climb but also have a chance to play major spoiler this Saturday evening.
Iowa State will be ready to play and will not get pushed around at the point of attack, keeping Hurts and the offense humble. I do not expect Purdy to tear it up through the air, if anything limiting throws and establishing the running game to keep the Sooners offense off the field and eat the clock is the superior strategy.
No defense in the country can fully stonewall Oklahoma, as their talent and athleticism on that side of the ball is as elite as anyone’s in the FBS. But in spots like these certain teams are just built to be a thorn in the side, and that’s what we should see come Saturday.
The Sooners pick up their eighth win this season, but the Cyclones get the cover as Campbell’s squad has just enough moxie in them to ensure that OU can’t take any plays off.
Stay away from the total in this one and look for the ‘Clones to keep it within the posted 14.5 points.
Prediction: Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 27