It’s been a week since Oklahoma’s grueling victory over Texas. It’s had enough time to recover for Kansas State on Saturday.
One of the pillars of former coach Bob Stoops’ tenure was his teams never experienced lulls following the Red River Showdown. Some of the Sooners’ best performances came the week after the trip to Dallas.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley gets his first crack at this aspect of the program against the Wildcats. History says the Sooners won’t struggle. The average margin of victory in their previous four visits to Snyder Family Stadium — dating back to 2008 — is 32 points.
But coaches change and so do the teams. No. 9 Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) appears to have momentum as it prepares to face the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2). But there are questions Oklahoma needs to answer. Here are five of them.
Can Oklahoma force turnovers?
The most puzzling aspect of the season is Oklahoma’s lack of turnovers. It has generated 5 through six games.
The Sooners’ last visit to Kansas State — a 55-0 victory in 2015 — was a turnover-laden romp. Two first-half interceptions set up short touchdown drives. A pick-6 on the opening play of the second half solidified the rout.
Oklahoma feels like they are due after failing to get any against Texas. One of the more remarkable aspects of the Ohio State performance was the Sooners getting just 1 interception.
Generating turnovers will decide whether the Sooners’ defense is good enough to win the Big 12. Currently, it is lagging behind.
Will running back Rodney Anderson’s progress continue?
It seems unlikely sophomore running back Abdul Adams will play against the Wildcats. He was in a medical boot for the Texas game. The coaching staff would like him to heal before stepping back on the field.
Anderson rushing for 48 yards and a touchdown against Texas is a good sign. He’s scrubbing off the rust from missing two seasons due to injuries.
There’s no doubt freshman Trey Sermon is the go-to back right now. But Anderson’s improvement means the Sooners still have a 1-2 punch that can turn into a trio when Adams returns.
How far along is defensive tackle Du’Vonta Lampkin?
The sophomore defensive tackle is the most tantalizing player on the Sooners’ roster. His presence has grown in the last few games. He even started against the Longhorns.
Lampkin has the ability to evaluate the Oklahoma defense more than any player. Someone who collapses pockets and clogs multiple gaps in the middle is valuable. Lampkin has that kind of size and talent.
If he keeps ticking upward, the Sooners’ pass rush becomes more effective. Quarterbacks can’t step, meaning they are easier targets for defensive Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Also, pressure up the middle creates poor quarterback decisions.
Will another receiver emerge?
The second half of the Texas game was telling. Wide receiver Jeff Badet was injured by that point. Freshman CeeDee Lamb showed the effects of the shoulder injury he suffered the previous week.
Oklahoma’s offense thrives when its receivers not only make catches but are elusive after the catch. The Sooners score touchdowns 74 percent (20 for 27) of the time they reach the red zone. It’s a solid rate considering how much spread offenses tend to bog down in the condensed area.
They need another receiver to emerge to go along with tight end Mark Andrews, Badet and Lamb. Speedster Marquise Brown is the likeliest candidate. The passing game is becoming too dependent on fullback Dimitri Flowers and the running backs at this point.
Is Oklahoma’s secondary getting better?
The Sooners held up well against Texas. They had some blown coverages and they tackled better. Against Kansas State, the issue it faces is getting lulled to sleep. There are a lot of responsibilities for safeties and cornerbacks in the run game.
The Wildcats live and die with play-action passes. Every member of the secondary will be in isolated man-to-man coverage a lot on Saturday. The group has to hold up. Kansas State can only stay in the game with chunk plays in the passing game.
For the first time since the Iowa State game, the Sooners’ secondary looked like it progressed. We’ve seen this before. Every prior uptick seemed to be followed by a step back.
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