Position breakdown: Iowa State

Oklahoma has a battle on its hands with QB Richardson

Back in a familiar position, Oklahoma has to find a way to slow down another mobile quarterback – a riddle that has left the Sooners stumped in each of the past three games.

This game is a little different, though.

Iowa State signal caller Sam B. Richardson, who leads the Cyclones in rushing attempts and yards, doesn’t have the weapons around him that Oklahoma (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) faced against Texas, Kansas State and TCU.

Richardson is kind of on his own, with his greatest weapon in the form of a true freshman wide receiver. Still, don’t think that the Cyclones haven’t taken a peek at what has worked against the Sooners.

“They really weren’t a big issue in the (Kansas State) game,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “The one play that hurts us in the quarterback run game, they don’t have big splits and we miss a tackle. . . . We’re going to do some things to combat it, but they haven’t been a major issue whatsoever.”

Even if Oklahoma is figuring out different ways to combat the splits, which have still neutralized a defensive line pass rush, it is still not a perfect situation.

Stoops knows that current Iowa State offensive coordinator Mike Mangino, an old friend, will have something special for the Sooners.

“You could see Sam Richardson their quarterback really continues to make improvement and being comfortable in what they’re doing,” he said. “Coach Mangino is doing a great job there with the offense.”

That is the key position battle this week. Here’s a look at how each team compares across the board:

Quarterback: Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight is coming off his best game of the season – competition considered. The Sooners once again draw a mobile quarterback who leads his team in rushing. Richardson is talented and is just a yard under Kansas State QB Jake Waters in total yards per game, and both are higher on the list than Knight. Oklahoma is coming off its best offensive game in the conference, though.

Running backs: The return of running Keith Ford could give Oklahoma one of the top rushing attacks in the nation. Without him, they are still better than Iowa State, which ranks last in the Big 12 by more than 20 yards per game. Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine almost averages as many yards as the Cyclones.

Wide receivers: Iowa State leans on a true freshman as its top pass catcher. Don’t get it twisted though, at 6-foot-5 Allen Lazard is a lot to handle. Sterling Shepard is the best receiver on the field . . . for either team . . . by far. Oklahoma

Tight end: Mike Mangino’s offense? Tight ends? Haha. Oklahoma

Offensive line: The Sooners are still well in the conversation for the best offensive line in the Big 12, maybe the nation. With the Oklahoma offensive line, you’re getting 5.1 yards per carry and five sacks on the season. Iowa State allows 2.3 sacks per game. It’s time for Oklahoma to run wild.

Defensive line: The Sooners have been schemed out of play the past three weeks by the wide splits on the offensive line. That doesn’t change the fact that Oklahoma has plenty of talent on the defensive front. It doesn’t show through on the stat sheet. Iowa State defensive lineman Cory is fourth in the conference with five sacks, but Oklahoma has defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.

Linebackers: The emergence of Devante Bond has made this unit even better. Eric Striker Is still in the top 10 in both tackles for loss and sacks in the Big 12. Geneo Grissom’s time off during early downs has made him even more dangerous in passing situations.

Secondary: Zack Sanchez leads the Big 12 in interceptions and is tied for third in pass break-ups. He’s one of only two sophomores on the Thorpe Award semifinals’ list. Nigal Tribune, Iowa State’s top defensive back, isn’t bad, but Oklahoma has the top defensive back in the game – even if its safety play is still suspect.

Special teams: If you listened to the coaches, kicker Michael Hunnicutt might not missed a kick in practice for the past two weeks. Alex Ross is still arguably the best game-changer in the nation for Oklahoma.

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