This week's HuffPost Sports spotlight game is No. 9 Oklahoma versus No. 8 Kansas St.
Don't look now, but head coach Bill Snyder and the Kansas St. Wildcats have the "Little Apple" on the college football radar for the first time since Michael Bishop was running over everyone and tossing 70-yard bombs. K-State is 7-0 and ranked eighth in the country, yet remains a 14-point underdog -- at home mind you -- against an angry Oklahoma team. The Sooners' national title hopes were shockingly derailed last weekend in Norman against Texas Tech's spread attack.
Let's take a look at some of the key bullet points for Saturday's showdown, which will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
1. Oklahoma's Mindset
There are two directions a team typically goes after a loss like last week: either way up, or way down. This is a veteran Sooner bunch that will be looking for blood after what was supposed to be a warm-up game last weekend at home. Landry Jones has been fantastic pretty much all year and almost led OU back from the dead last week. He showed us all why -- even after a tough start -- he is the second best quarterback in the country behind Andrew Luck. Head coach Bob Stoops has a history of pushing the right buttons after losses (see bullet #5). The motivation here is that with a win over a top 10 team on the road, followed by a Dec. 3 win against current No. 3 Oklahoma St., the Sooners could very well get right back into the national title hunt. This is precisely what happened in 2008, when they lost the Red River Rivalry game.
2. Daniel Thomas, Who?
When a near 1,600-yard, 19 TD rusher in Daniel Thomas graduated to the NFL, many people -- myself included -- disregarded the 2011 K-State running game. However, thanks to the uber-versatile quarterbacking play of Collin Klein (670 yards rushing, 14 TDs) and sophomore running back John Hubert (637 yards), the Wildcats rank 19th in the country on the ground, and are only getting better. At a mere 5 foot eight inches, Hubert doesn't have anywhere near the size of Thomas (6 feet 2 inches, 230 pounds), but he is a very shifty runner who can also be effective catching balls in the flat. Hubert is a vital cog to an offense that has averaged 37.5 points per game since its season opener. Klein remains a work in progress as a passer, but if he can shake lose on occasion, he will completely open up the threat of the deep ball, which leads us to...
3. Going after Gabe Lynn
Playing in the place of the injured Jamell Fleming versus Texas Tech, Lynn was repeatedly torched on the perimeter with his inability to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. While the Wildcats don't feature the receiving personnel of the Red Raiders, Klein has shown enough consistency throwing the ball (24 out of 37 in the last two games for 341 yards, two TDs and zero picks) to warrant legitimate concern for OU. In other words, he runs like Taylor Martinez but can actually throw a little bit. The solace for Sooner fans is that most of his throws are short-to-intermediate off of quick drops, but with Lynn being such an easy target (assuming Fleming's knee isn't 100 percent), expect him to take a chance deep at least a couple of times.
For all the talk of how dominant this Sooners' defense was earlier in the year, it gave up a whopping 572 total yards of offense last week and hasn't forced a turnover since the Texas game.
However, at least on paper, this is still an OU defense that can be dominant, especially at the point of attack. Jamarkus McFarland and Frank Alexander (see :30 mark) are tremendous weapons on the line and edge and both will help pave the way for Corey Nelson and Travis Lewis (team leading 51 tackles) to make some plays in the backfield and contain Klein's legs.
On the other sideline, DE Meshak Williams -- who has played several positions already this year -- is perhaps the best player on the K-State defense. He is a predatory pass rusher with a terrific motor, whose six sacks are tied for 12th in the country. Arthur Jones is one of the premier linebackers in the Big 12 and has enough athleticism and speed to drop back into coverage. But maybe most important for KSU is its secondary, which has the super challenging task of containing OU receivers Kenny Stills and Ryan Broyles, who this season became the leading receiver in school history. Much of that responsibility falls on junior cornerback and juco-transfer Nigel Malone, who is tied at four interceptions with OU DB Tony Jefferson for the league lead. Expect him to start on Broyles but shift to the more explosive Stills at times as well. This could be the difference of the game.
OU has not lost two consecutive Big 12 games in 13 years and hasn't lost to the Wildcats since 2003. Forget the fact that K-State leads the conference in defense. The Sooners also hold a dominant 70-14-4 all-time record over the Wildcats, who have struggled defensively of late, giving up nearly 700 yards through the air over the past two games. Facing Jones and that deadly aerial attack -- an attack that helped Oklahoma win its first six games this season by an average of 29.5 points -- is by far its tallest order of the season.
On the other hand, this is a K-State team that leads the nation in time of possession, with nearly 35 minutes per game. Much of this has to do with its 48.6 percent third down conversion rate. Akin to Nebraska though, this is not a quick strike team built on coming back. KSU is undefeated this season in large part because it has been able to build leads early in games, and then pound the run, thus eliminating comeback opportunities. But, as we saw when the Cornhuskers played an electric offense like Wisconsin in Week 5, you cannot get down early as a ball-controlled, running team and thus be forced into obvious passing situations.
The bottom line is that this could have very well been a trap game had OU won last week. Instead, this is a very hungry and very angry Sooners team that will romp come Saturday.
PICK: Oklahoma 40, Kansas St. 17
This is the fifth installment of our new weekly series previewing the college football game of the week, which comes out every Thursday afternoon. Thus far, we are 4-0.
Email me at email@example.com or ask me questions about anything sports-related @206Child for my upcoming mailbag.
Plus, check out my new HuffPost sports blog, The Schultz Report, for a fresh and daily outlook on all things sports and listen to my weekly radio spot on 97.5 The Zone in Salt Lake City every Friday night at 6:25 ET.