Commentary

Sooners must get back to basics

Five Wide: Storylines for No. 9 Oklahoma's matchup with No. 8 Kansas State

Updated: October 29, 2011, 12:57 AM ET
By Brandon Chatmon | SoonerNation

Oklahoma will be looking to get back on track this weekend when the Sooners travel to Kansas State at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. OU's 41-38 upset loss to Texas Tech sent shockwaves through the national rankings and the Big 12 last weekend.

Here are five key storylines to follow during Oklahoma-Kansas State:

1. Execution

The winner of Saturday's game will be the team that executes the best. Kansas State is known for its execution and deliberate offensive attack. The Wildcats are rushing for 213.9 yards per game and find several different ways to do it. Quarterback Collin Klein and running back John Hubert each average at least 15 carries per game. In other words, K-State makes you beat them, they won't beat themselves.

[+] EnlargeCollin Klein
Scott Sewell/US PresswireKansas State and Collin Klein are rushing for 213.9 yards per game.
The Sooners are coming off a game in which their execution was so poor it helped contribute to the Red Raiders upset. Missed assignments and poor technique were a driving force behind the Sooners' failures last weekend. They cannot have a similar performance on Saturday or Kansas State will take advantage and hand them their second loss of the season.

2. Slow starts

OU has gotten off to slow starts in several games this season. Against KSU, it will be particularly critical for the Sooners to get an early lead. The Wildcats' passing attack doesn't scare anyone, so if they're put in a position where they have to rally, it's great for the Sooners.

A quick start also would boost the Sooners' confidence. After struggling to make plays last weekend, OU could use a reminder of the offensive success and defensive dominance that led them to a 6-0 start before the upset loss.

3. Turnover troubles

OU has gone back-to-back games without forcing a turnover, so expect the Sooners to emphasize turnovers this weekend. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said this week how important one turnover could have been against Texas Tech, so expect OU to get at least one turnover this week.

But Kansas State does a terrific job protecting the ball, surrendering only seven turnovers, tied with Texas Tech for No. 1 in the conference in that category. The Wildcats also are opportunistic, forcing 15 turnovers this season to rank No. 2 in the Big 12 in turnover margin (1.14 per game).

4. Sending a message

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
AP Photo/Mike FuentesOklahoma quarterback Landry Jones must be more efficient and accurate against Kansas State.
After such a disappointing loss and national showing against the Red Raiders, OU could send a message with an impressive road win over the undefeated Wildcats. If the Sooners have hopes of re-inserting themselves into the BCS championship race, an impressive performance against a ranked team would do wonders.

The Sooners' rallying crying this week was "Remember '08," because OU earned a BCS title berth in 2008 after suffering a loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry. That season the Sooners finished with three 20-plus point victories over ranked teams, which undoubtedly helped to catapult them into the BCS title game against Florida. A win over the Wildcats could be a step toward duplicating that feat.

5. Finding a rhythm

Quarterback Landry Jones never seemed to get into a rhythm against the Red Raiders, despite passing for 412 yards and five touchdowns. He was uncharacteristically inaccurate and never got comfortable in the pocket. It could be critical for Jones to regain his rhythm this week, with high-scoring Texas A&M and Baylor just over the horizon.

The Sooners' offense also needs to find a rhythm as a group. There are times when OU appears to be searching for its offensive identity. Are the Sooners a power-running attack? Or an up-tempo, explosive passing attack? Is getting Ryan Broyles the football a top priority? Or are the Sooners better off spreading the ball around through the air and on the ground?

Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bchatmonespn@gmail.com.

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Oklahoma/Big 12 reporter

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