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OU football: 3 keys for Sooners against Iowa State

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Jalen Hurts

Senior quarterback Jalen Hurts during the game against Kansas State Oct. 26 in Manhattan, Kansas.

After losing to Kansas State, 48-41, No. 9 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) will have its first test in "Championship November" against Iowa State.

The Cyclones (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) come to Norman fresh off a 34-27 loss to Oklahoma State, but they boast a high-powered passing attack and a solid defense. 

Here are three keys for a Sooner victory:

Be ready to defend the pass

In the Big 12, the Sooners seemingly have to face a quality quarterback every game, and Iowa State is no exception. Sophomore Brock Purdy emerged as the future at quarterback in 2018, as he started the last 9 games and garnered a 7-2 record.

Through eight games in the 2019 season, Purdy has posted a 153.6 passer rating — which ranks third in the conference — and he has thrown 15 touchdowns. Purdy and the Cyclones throw the ball well and often, as only 11 teams in the nation have a higher passing play percentage than Iowa State.

With a Sooner secondary that struggled to hold its own at times against Kansas State as the opponent, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell will likely dial up passes frequently for Purdy. If Oklahoma wants to let the Kansas State loss be an anomaly, stopping the Cyclone passing attack will be crucial.

Have a balanced running game 

The lack of opportunities for running backs Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks was a widely criticized aspect of Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley’s play-calling against Kansas State. The duo combined for just six carries in the loss, which is a low number for two former All-Big 12 running backs.

That’s not to say the Sooners didn’t run the ball at all, because senior quarterback Jalen Hurts ran the ball 19 times for 96 yards and three touchdowns. This is a season-long trend, as Hurts' 103 carries is greater than Sermon and Brooks’ 101 combined on the season. 

Hurts certainly should have opportunities to run the football, but keeping the running backs involved could be beneficial to the offense. With a healthy dose of Hurts, Sermon and Brooks, the Sooners realistically have one of the best backfields in the nation, and the running game will be key to controlling the game against the Cyclones.

Finally force a turnover

First-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch rarely loses focus on creating turnovers. It is the centerpiece of his defensive scheme, and he brings the topic up nearly every time he speaks to the media. But in the Sooners’ last four contests, they haven’t been able to get a single takeaway.

A turnover realistically could have swung the outcome of the game against Kansas State, as the Wildcats were able to keep possession for 38 minutes and the Sooner offense was not able to gain any traction. Grinch cited this as one of the key reasons for the defense’s collapse in the loss, and he insisted the trend would have to change. 

In the Cyclones' most recent game, a 34-27 loss to No. 23 Oklahoma State, Purdy threw three interceptions that were a major part of the game's outcome. The thought of forcing three takeaways is ambitious after the Sooners’ recent games, but if they can force at least one, they should be in good shape to win.

Kickoff for the match will be at 7 p.m. CT on FOX.

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