Three Keys to Victory: Oklahoma

Iowa State opens another challenging Big 12 slate Saturday night against top-ranked Oklahoma at Jack Trice Stadium. Here are three keys to a Cyclone victory, according to CN senior writer Bill Seals.

Decisive edge in turnover margin

The great equalizer between teams is the turnover, and the Cyclone defense must pick up an array of them against the Sooners. However, a unit that was supposed to be as strong as Dan McCarney has had in three years, has not been particularly good in this department.

In fact, the biggest reason the Cyclones are even in turnover margin and rank fifth in the Big 12 is that Austin Flynn and a sound group of tailbacks haven't turned the ball over much. As a defense, ISU has forced just five turnovers in three games and Steve Paris' interception against Northern Illinois was its first of the season.

McCarney's team won the turnover margin against NIU and must win it decisively against a Sooner team that likes to air it out with Jason White and a cast of talented wide receivers, and feature a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 11 to three.

Very special teams

After Antonio Perkins returned three punts for touchdowns against UCLA two weeks ago, expect the Cyclones to kick away from him or send the ball out of bounds. But this isn't the only area in which the Sooners can be dominant in special teams, however.

While Tony Yelk will attempt to kick the ball away from Perkins, he'll first need time to get the ball away, and punt protection has been a problem thus far. ISU fans will remember that it was a blocked punt that gave Oklahoma its first points of the game last season in Norman.

It wouldn't hurt if the Cyclones can finally get a big play from punt returner Todd Miller, who's averaging just 10 yards per return with a long of 28. This one year after he took two back for scores in 37 attempts.

Avoid early collapse

Against highly-ranked teams, ISU has often found itself out of the game almost before it started. Last season in Norman, a blocked punt would set the tone for a miserable offensive day for Seneca Wallace and a group of receivers that were bottled up by the Sooners.

In order to give themselves any kind of chance in this game, the Cyclones must keep the crowd involved and not fall behind by big points early, plain and simple. If not, this could be a repeat of 2002 and of pretty much every game with Kansas State in the McCarney era.


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