Which Sooners Will Step Up on Saturday at Kansas State?


By this time of the week, fans have pretty much had their fill of all the analysis paralysis, story lines and bold predictions that impossibly saturate the days counting down to every football Saturday. At this point, it comes down to the young guys on the field, which brings us to the question of which Sooner or Sooners will step up and stand out and seize the spotlight away from Kansas State and its homecoming crowd on Saturday?

Most experts and fans of college football expect the Sooners to show up in Manhattan, Kan., on Saturday afternoon angry and with fire in their eyes after their humbling defeat by Texas in the Cotton Bowl in a game in which the guys in crimson and cream were heavily favored.

Oct 3, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers running back Wendell Smallwood (4) is tackled by Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Eric Striker (19) in the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure that this Saturday will be any different than any other football weekend, though, in terms of Bob Stoops’ team wanting to come out and put in on the opponent. Yes, the Sooners should come out and play with more determination and the mind set that it is going to take more than any awe that might be evoked by the name on the front of the jersey, but they still have to execute and outperform the other team on the field in order to finish the job and take home the “W.”

Personally, I think Oklahoma will play more inspired football this weekend than last, and perhaps the wake-up call last week in the Cotton Bowl will be the catalyst that puts the Sooners over the top at Kansas State. One thing that is fairly certain, however, is that it is going to take a collective team effort and not just one superstar performance to get the job done.

So who is it going to be on the Sooners’ side that steps up against Kansas State and helps preserve Oklahoma’s impressive record under Stoops of not losing back-to-back games in a season over the last 16 seasons.

My expectation is that we are going to see a heavy dose of the Sooners’ “S” squad on Saturday. Look for Eric Striker and Zack Sanchez to spur on an Oklahoma defense that looked like a no-show last weekend against its Red River rivals. Striker will put K-State quarterback Joe Hubener in his sights and make it uncomfortable for him all day long, and when the Wildcat QB does unleash a throw downfield, he better be mindful of Sanchez’s whereabouts.

Sanchez had a 74-yard interception return in the fourth quarter against Kansas State the last time the Sooners visited Manhattan that helped put the game away for OU.

The other member of Oklahoma’s game-changing S-force is senior wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who is steadily moving up the all-time Sooner receiving chart. Shepard had a rather quiet, 37-yard receiving day against the Wildcats two seasons ago, but torched the K-State defense last season in Norman, bringing in 15 catches for 197 yards, albeit in a losing effort.

Shepard, a big-time playmaker on the OU Air Raid attack, should be able to capitalize on a Kansas State defense that has not been very good so far this season defending passing teams. Look for the senior Sooner receiver to put up a Tyler Lockett-like performance against K-State on Saturday. And, oh, by the way, Shepard also is on the receiving end of punts for the Sooners.

The other Oklahoma “S” factor to be considered in this matchup is head coach Bob Stoops. Lest we remind everyone that the former Kansas State assistant is 8-2 overall in games against the Wildcats and 5-0 in games in Manhattan.

If you are a Sooner fan, how about one more “S” as the final word: a sixth straight win over Bill Snyder in the stadium that bears his name.