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It’s put up or shut up time for these Oklahoma Sooners. A win against Iowa State keeps a flicker of hope for the College Football Playoff alive while a loss in their final home game seals their CFP hopes and puts their Big 12 title defense in really choppy waters.
Baylor bludgeoned this Sooners defense into a corner like a boxer. Body shots rained down until the fourth quarter when the Bears would eventually land the major haymakers needed to knock down the Sooners. For Dave Aranda’s Baylor Bears, the running game did the trick. As the Sooners are ready for the Iowa State Cyclones, the tune is eerily similar to last week, with an added focus on Iowa State’s tight ends.
The Cyclones feature Breece Hall, who some consider the second-best back in the conference. Hall will play on Sundays for sure. He’s a tough, hard-nosed back that can make one cut and get moving.
Brock Purdy mans the quarterback position. He’s a veteran in Matt Campbell’s offense and plays behind a veteran offensive line the Sooners defense is quite familiar with.
The Iowa State passing game will rally around wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson and a pair of good tight ends in Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen.
With that said, how does the Sooner defense bottle up this Iowa State defense enough that it gives their offense a chance to succeed?
Up Next: Won’t be a Breeze
Bottle Up Breece
Breece Hall is the focal point of this offense. The Cyclones want to run the ball and give teams a healthy dose of Hall. After getting run over by Abram Smith and Gerry Bohanon, the Sooners have to focus their efforts on stopping Hall and force Purdy into beating them. These teams played twice last season and how they performed against Hall determined the results.
Iowa State beat Oklahoma in Ames, with Hall rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Though he had two touchdowns in the Big 12 Championship rematch, the Sooners held Hall to 79 yards on 23 carries. That’s 60 fewer yards. The Sooners have enough tape and experience to know how to bottle up Hall. Purdy had to shoulder the load in the championship game and ended up throwing three interceptions.
The plan is clear. Bottle up Breece and take your chance against Purdy.
Up Next: Containing Iowa State’s Size
Big Pass Catchers Require Big Defenders
For whatever reason, the Cyclones have a ridiculous amount of height amongst their primary pass catchers. Xavier Hutchinson is 6 foot 3, Charlie Kolar is 6 foot 6, and Chase Allen is 6’7. While the Cyclones aren’t trying to play basketball, they have no problem throwing 50/50 balls to these physically gifted playmakers.
Key Lawrence seems like a likely option for Alex Grinch to deploy to match up at some point against all three. He has the height and physicality to match up the best with these tight ends. David Ugwoegbu also may be asked to make plays in coverage against either tight end. At 6 foot 4, He has the legitimate size to catch up with both. However, his drops and coverage skills aren’t his best asset.
On the outside, Woodi Washington and DJ Graham are both healthy, and both are capable enough defenders to handle the assignment of sticking with Hutchinson. It’s pretty simple: The Sooners defense will have to play bigger than they are and use a combination of zones and bracket coverage to keep the size differential from being too much of a factor.
Up Next: Get off to a Great Start
It’s high time the Oklahoma defense starts the first quarter with a turnover or a few three-and-outs. This team is playing in their last home game of the year, and it’s Senior Day. Feed off the energy of what should be a raucous home crowd and come out flying around. That type of energy is contagious and just permeates through the defense. An early first quarter turnover, a few splash plays, or some three and outs can infuse some energy while the offense figures out how they’ll attack the Cyclones’ defense.
The Sooners are in for another hard-fought game. This won’t be easy and hopefully this week they’ve been reminded of that. They’ll have to elevate themselves if they want a chance to achieve the postseason goals they set for themselves coming into this 2021.