OU vs. Iowa State: Should the Cyclones’ Win Over Texas Concern the Sooners


Game No. 8 on the 2015 Sooner football schedule reads OU vs. Iowa State. A walk in the park for the newly rejuvenated Sooners, right? If that’s your mindset about this Saturday’s matchup in Norman, a word of caution. is in order.

Bob Stoops has never lost to Iowa State, and the Sooners have won 16 straight games over the Cyclones, who have won twice in five Big 12 games this season. One of those two victories hardly counts, given that it was against winless Kansas, but the other is worth noting.

It isn’t so much that Iowa State beat Texas last weekend, but more the way they did so that got everyone’s attention around the Big 12. After giving up an average of 52 points a game in consecutive losses to Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor, the Cyclones pitched a 24-0 shutout last Saturday against Texas, doubling up the Longhorns in just about every offensive category.

Texas was an abysmal 2 out of 15 in third-down conversions and had the ball for only 22 minutes the entire game, compared with 37 minutes for the home Cyclones.

What’s troubling about all of this is that the Longhorns handed the Sooners their only loss of the season, largely because of their ability to run the ball well against Oklahoma, while completely shutting down the Sooner rushing attack and keeping constant pressure on OU quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Oct 31, 2015; Lawrence, KS, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Vance Galloway (85) catches a touchdown pass against Kansas Jayhawks linebacker Marcquis Roberts (5) in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Oklahoma won the game 62-7. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Longhorns outgained Oklahoma on the ground by over 250 yards (313 to 67). Last weekend at Iowa State, however, Texas was held to just 119 rushing yards, while yielding 238 to the Cyclones, 157 of which belonged to redshirt freshman Mike Warren, who averaged close to five yards every time he toted the ball.

Warren played his high school ball in Oklahoma in Lawton.  Although Rivals rated him the seventh best running back prospect in the state, OU did not offer him a scholarship. You can be sure, though, the Big 12’s second leading rusher, averaging 119 yards per game, will have the full attention of the OU defense this Saturday.

Iowa State’s offensive numbers this season are very comparable to what they are allowing opponents on defense. The Cyclones average 423 yards of offense per game (237 passing, 186 rushing), which ranks seventh in the Big 12, and are eighth in the league in scoring (26.5 per game). Their offensive ability is clearly their strength, but that is offset by a defense that up to last week did not show many signs of being able to stop anybody, and clearly not on a consistent basis.

Although the Sooners have much better talent and have many more weapons on offense than Iowa State, the biggest difference when these two teams meet on Saturday will be the Oklahoma defense. The Sooners lead the Big 12 in total defense (yielding 321.4 yards/game), pass defense (168.4/game) and scoring defense (18.4/game) and are fourth in stopping the run game (153/game).

Oct 31, 2015; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Ryan Willis (13) is tackled by Oklahoma Sooners defensive end Charles Tapper (91) in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Joel Lanning is expected to make just his second career start for Iowa State on Saturday and his first on the road. He completed 19 of 37 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown against Texas, but he also was sacked six times by the blitzing Longhorn defense. That could be a real problem against the Sooner defense, which leads the Big 12, averaging close to four sacks per game this season.

Since losing to Texas in early October, it is fair to say the Sooners have come out on the other side playing like a completely different team. In its three games following the Texas loss, Oklahoma has averaged 631 yards of total offense, evenly distributed between passing yards (331) and rushing yards (300). With that kind of offensive balance, defenses are forced to pick their poison, and OU’s last three foes (Kansas State, Texas Tech and Kansas) have all paid the price.

Over the past three weeks, the Sooner have outscored their opponents by an average score of 60-11. They’ve also limited their three opponents to an average of 90.7 yards rushing and 159 yards through the air.

Oklahoma’s defensive has definitely turned up the heat during the last month. In October alone, the Sooners forced 14 turnovers and picked off 10 passes. That ranked second in the country for the month of October.

OU’s 16-game winning streak over Iowa State is the Sooners’ longest active win streak against an opponent. Moreover, Oklahoma is 43-1-1 in its last 45 games with the Cyclones. Iowa State’s last victory over the Sooners was in 1991, 33-31, in a game played in Norman.

Three Things to Watch for in the Game

Oct 31, 2015; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Mike Warren (2) out runs the Texas Longhorns cornerback Kris Boyd (2) during the fourth quarter at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones beat the Longhorns 24-0. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State’s Mike Warren vs. the Sooner run defense: The talented Iowa State running back is averaging 119 yards per game and 6.2 yards per carry. The Sooners are allowing 153 rushing yards per game for the season, but that figure has gone down to 90.7 ypg in the last three games. If OU is able to contain Warren, shut off the Cyclones’ ability to successfully run the football and force them to beat the Sooners by passing the ball, it could be a long, difficult day for the young Iowa State quarterback Joel Lanning and his offense.

Time of possession: Iowa State’s best defense against the Sooners may be the ability of the Cyclone offense to play ball control and keep the Oklahoma offense off the field as long as possible. ISU does not want to get into a shootout with the Sooners. Time of possession will be a key factor in keeping the score down. The Cyclones lead the Big 12 in that category averaging 32 minutes of possession time per game. That statistic can be misleading, though, in that it can also mean that teams have been able to score quickly against the Cyclones, therefore not requiring long, time-consuming drives to put points on the board. Iowa State must be able to sustain drives, keep its offense on the field and, most importantly, score points – and plenty of them – if it hopes to have a chance at an upset. One other telling stat to keep in mind for this game: Oklahoma is 94-8 at home under Bob Stoops. That .922 home winning percentage is the best in the nation over that period of time.

If Iowa State can’t limit the Sooner rushing attack, OU will runaway in this game: Oklahoma’s run game has exploded in the last three games. Samaje Perine, last season’s Big 12 rushing champion, has 711 rushing yards in eight games this season, and half of the total has come in the previous three games. Redshirt freshman Joe Mixon is the lightening to Perine’s thunder in the OU backfield, and Mixon also has gained steam the last three weeks. Half of Mixon’s 440 yards on the ground have come in the Sooners’ blowout wins over K-State, Texas Tech and Kansas in the past three outings. Both Sooner running backs are averaging right at six yards per carry. If they have similar success against Iowa State and enable quarterback Baker Mayfield and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid offense to add unlimited damage through the air, this game could get really ugly, and fast.

My pick: Oklahoma 52, Iowa State 21 – Iowa State’s greatest hope is that the Sooners will be looking ahead to next week’s important showdown at Baylor. If there is one lesson Bob Stoops’ guys took away from this year’s game with Texas, it is that you have to take it one game at a time and focus on the immediate task at hand. Not much chance the Sooners will overlook the Cyclones, especially the way ISU handled Texas last weekend. Either way, I don’t see any way Iowa State leaves Norman this weekend with a victory, or anything near one.