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Oklahoma Football: Previewing The Sooners And Kansas State

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The Oklahoma Sooners travel to Manhattan, Kan. to take on Kansas State this weekend, the first of a two-game, season-ending road trip for the Sooners. Oklahoma comes in off a 48-10 victory over Iowa State a week ago, a game in which the Sooners rushed for 405 yards, the most in the Bob Stoops era.

The Sooners will be traveling to Manhattan shorthanded, as quarterback Blake Bell will not play due to a concussion suffered against Iowa State. Running back Damien Williams is also suspended for the game, while wide receiver Lacoltan Bester may also miss the game due to a suspension. OU coach Bob Stoops did not confirm any of these absences on Wednesday.

Related Story: OU's Williams Out, Bell Questionable Against Kansas State

Kansas State has rallied from a 2-4 start to rattle off four straight conference wins and is playing its best football of the season. Even though the Wildcats are a very tough team, the Sooners have not lost to Kansas State in Manhattan since Stoops took over in 1999. OU is 4-0 in that stretch, including a 58-17 win in 2011, the Sooners' last trip to the Little Apple. OU last lost to Kansas State on the road in 1996.

It won't be an easy trip for the Sooners this time around and despite the records, a win against the surging Wildcats would be one of the Sooners' best this season.

Three keys for Oklahoma:

1. Help Trevor Knight feel comfortable

All indications are that Knight will start his third game for Oklahoma this season on Saturday. The first two games of the season didn't go particularly well for Knight, especially throwing the football. Knight looked much better throwing the ball when he came in during the second quarter against Iowa State, but still needs to improve a great deal. The OU offense needs to run the ball effectively and the offensive line and wide receivers can help Knight by giving him time in the pocket and getting open so the throws are easy to make.

2. Start quickly

Kansas State is playing great football while the Sooners have proven consistency is not their forte this season. Oklahoma will need to start fast to take the rabid KSU crowd out of the game early. The only problem is that the Sooners have been terrible in the first quarter this season and now don't have Bell or Williams to help the cause. It's going to be hard for the Sooners to overcome that, but if they fall behind early, it's going to be even more difficult to dig out of a hole. Oklahoma has to dictate the pace of the game from the start.

Related Story: Sooners Can't Explain Early-Game Struggles

3. Contain the run game

The Wildcats have been surging thanks in large part to a terrific run game. During the four-game winning streak, KSU is averaging 207 yards on the ground per game. Quarterback Daniel Sams is a big reason behind that, but the Wildcats also have a very good and capable back in senior John Hubert. The Sooners have been fairly successful stopping the run this season, giving up just over 143 yards per game, good for 32nd in the nation. However, OU has given up over 200 yards on the ground three times this season and 185 to Kansas. Oklahoma has to shore up the middle of the defense and contain Sams on the perimeter.

Three key players for Kansas State:

1. QB Daniel Sams- 143 carries, 784 yards, 11 TDs, 73.1 comp. %, 452 yards, 4 TDs

Sams has been terrific running the ball this season, but his impressive passing numbers have caused headaches for opposing defenses the past month or so. He's not an amazing passer, but he's perfectly capable of making any throw on the field. OU will have to be wary of his arm as well as his legs.

2. WR Tyler Lockett- 56 receptions, 825 yards, 5 touchdowns

One that got away, the Booker T. Washington product is having another outstanding season for KSU. Locket and fellow Oklahoma native Tramaine Thompson form one of the better wide receivers duos in the conference, but Lockett has stepped up as the go-to receiver this season. OU will have to lock him down at all times to prevent him from having a big game.

3. DE Ryan Mueller- 50, tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks

Mueller has been a dominant force along the defensive line this season, a major question mark for the Wildcats at the beginning of the year. Mueller has helped fill the void by leading the team in tackles for loss and sacks. He also turned in one of the best plays in college football to date with this incredible strip sack (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPZiB3gTCQQ) of Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. OU tackles Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson will have their hands full with him.

Key matchup: Trevor Knight vs. KSU secondary

The Wildcats haven't been great against the pass this season, ranking 70th in the country in pass defense. They've also intercepted just 11 passes as a team this season. On top of that, safety Ty Zimmerman, easily the Wildcat's best player in the secondary will miss the game with an injury. Knight has thrown some good passes this year, but they've been few and far between. However, the opportunity to face a depleted Wildcats' secondary combined with the growth he's experienced since the beginning of the year could mean a big game is in store for Knight. He'll have to prove it on the field, as he is yet to do so.

Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Kansas State 20

The Sooners have some good momentum built up from last week's win over Iowa State and will be looking for a little payback after KSU defeated the Sooners in Norman last year, 24-19.

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