Oklahoma looks to rebound from its second loss of the season when it (5-2) travels to Ames, Iowa, to take on Iowa State at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. Here are five storylines to keep an eye on:
1. How will the Sooners respond to being out of the national title picture?
OU responded extremely well to its first loss of the season, a 24-19 defeat at the hands of Kansas State on Sept. 22. Following that disappointment, the Sooners blew out Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas before last Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame.
Now, with two losses, how will OU respond to having its ultimate goal out of reach? There’s plenty to play for with a Big 12 title and BCS berth in play for the Sooners. Avoiding a second straight three-loss season is likely on the minds of the Sooners coaches and players, too. OU needs to play well to help lessen the negativity around the program and avoid another disappointing seasons.
Williams, OU’s starting running back, is nursing an ankle injury and has missed multiple practices this week. Even if the junior is able to play against the Cyclones, its unlikely Williams will be the explosive treat he has been in 2012.
If he’s limited, Whaley will have the opportunity fill the void. Coach Bob Stoops said Wednesday the senior would start if Williams could not. After losing his starting job to Williams earlier this season, Whaley will be looking to have a big game after not seeing any action in OU’s last two games.
3. Can Jalen Saunders continue to be a difference-maker on offense?
Saunders made an immediate impact after being cleared to play before the Texas game. Against Notre Dame, Saunders took things to a different level with eight first-quarter catches before ending the game with 15 receptions for 181 yards.
In three games played, Saunders is already tied with Sterling Shepard for third on the squad with 20 receptions. It’s clear he has earned the trust of quarterback Landry Jones and he has the quickness and playmaking ability to take advantage of ISU’s defense.
4. Will the Cyclones continue to be tough at home?
Iowa State lost to Texas Tech and Kansas State by a combined 17 points. The Cyclones had the opportunity to upset the Wildcats before falling 27-21 on Oct. 13 and dropped a 24-13 decision to the Red Raiders on Sept. 29.
The Sooners have been susceptible to being knocked off in Big 12 games on the road, with losses in 2011 at Oklahoma State and Baylor, at Missouri and Texas A&M in 2010, and at Nebraska and Texas Tech in 2009.
5. What impact will the loss of Jake Knott have on the Cyclone defense?
Knott had shoulder surgery Monday and will likely miss the remainder of his senior season. The Cyclones leading tackler with 79 (9.88 per game), Knott will be missed alongside A.J. Klein as ISU featured the Big 12’s most productive linebacker duo before the injury.
Jevohn Miller is listed behind Knott on ISU’s depth chart and will likely see more action. Look for the Sooners to test the position vacated by Knott early and often on Saturday. Saunders could take advantage through the air while Williams or Whaley can capitalize on the ground.