The Iowa State-Oklahoma contest in Norman on Saturday will see the convergence of two teams in intriguingly different circumstances.
Iowa State is coming off probably the most significant victory in the history of its football program after a thrilling double-overtime triumph over Oklahoma State, while Oklahoma is trying to pick up the pieces and salvage their season after losing to the electrifying RG3 and the Baylor Bears in Waco.
Oklahoma can still win a conference championship and needs to rebound nicely to wash the bitter taste out of their mouths, while Iowa State will look to keep riding their euphoric wave and thrive in the spoiler role.
To prepare for this interesting matchup Saturday, here are 10 things you should know about Iowa State.
They Cyclones shocked the college football world and started the earthquake that shook the BCS by upsetting then-No. 2 Oklahoma State 37-31 in double overtime last Friday night. This came after ISU was 24.5-point underdogs and OSU had beaten its last three opponents by a combined score of 177-75.
Iowa State was able to do the unthinkable by intercepting Brandon Weeden three times and limiting the Oklahoma State rushing output to 60 yards.
So make no mistake, OU fans, the upcoming matchup in Norman this weekend is by no means a guaranteed win for the Sooners. Iowa State is a very capable team that could give Oklahoma problems and, potentially, emerge from Owen Field victorious.
After replacing Steele Jantz midway through the Texas A&M game in late October, ISU quarterback Jared Barnett has led the Cyclones to a 3-0 record as a starter.
In their last three games, Barnett has thrown for 695 total yards. This is not encouraging for the Sooners, who have given up at least 379 passing yards in three of their last four contests.
Barnett, who passed for 376 yards and three touchdowns against Oklahoma State last week, could exploit weaknesses in the Sooners' secondary if OU fails to generate pressure on the defensive line and force Barnett out of his comfort zone and make poor decisions.
Barnett has also established himself as a very capable running quarterback during his time as a starter. In the last three games, Barnett has averaged 101 yards rushing and carried the ball 19, 22 and 14 times, respectively.
The Sooners have seen their share of dual-threat quarterbacks in E.J. Manuel, James Franklin, Colin Klein and Robert Griffin III and have had difficulties containing them at times, allowing them to rush for a combined 326 yards and four total touchdowns. While the Sooners have managed these players fairly well for the most part, this is an area the Cyclones could exploit if given the opportunity.
An important yet overlooked statistic in college football is first downs gained/allowed. Oklahoma's offense must consistently get first downs to have success. Doing so establishes rhythm, gives the OU defense a chance to rest while wearing out the opposing defense and builds confidence among the offense.
Again, Oklahoma could (emphasis on could) have problems here because ISU has given up the third-fewest first downs in the Big 12 against conference opponents. If they can force Landry Jones and the OU offense into quick three-and-outs, which sometimes becomes a problem for the Sooners, they could have a chance to pull off another upset.
Even though Iowa State ranks highly relative to the rest of the Big 12 in certain statistical categories, we can't forget the big picture: Iowa State has given up a lot of points this season and ranks 99th in the nation in yards allowed per game.
Coming off a frustrating performance against Baylor in which he didn't execute at the level he usually does, Landry Jones should be able to return to his old ways and distribute the ball effectively against the Cyclone defense if the Sooners establish the run first.
This game will be a good opportunity for Jones and the offense to continue to develop other players in the wake of Ryan Broyles' injury and continue to improve the running game by giving Roy Finch and others more touches.
Two of ISU's four losses this season have come on the road, to Baylor and Missouri, and the scores were lopsided. RG3 and Co. walloped the Cyclones 49-26, and the Tigers followed that up with a 52-17 trouncing at Faurot Field.
Moreover, the 101 combined points allowed by Iowa State in contests is the highest two-game total of the year for the Cyclones.
It is difficult to decide what to make of the Cyclones 41-7 thumping of Texas Tech in Lubbock. Despite the fact that the Red Raiders defeated the Sooners, they are 5-6 overall, and their only other conference win came against lowly Kansas.
It's logical to consider OU's puzzling loss to TTU an anomaly. That being considered, the Sooners should be able to take advantage of ISU's road struggles considering they'll be competing in the comfort of their own stadium and have been tremendously successful at Owen Field.
Arguably the most telling team statistic in football is turnover margin. Success almost always correlates with a a high turnovers forced to turnovers committed ratio, and while OU ranks in the middle of the pack with a .10 TO ratio, the Cyclones are 101st in the nation with a -.60 ratio.
The inconsistent yet highly talented Sooner defense will likely have success against ISU in this department. Look for one or perhaps multiple interceptions and possibly a forced fumble or two for OU against the turnover-prone Cyclones.
In the victory over the Cowboys last week, ISU's held more than a 10-minute advantage in time of possession. However, in all their losses this season, the Cyclones possessed the ball for less time than their opponents.
If the OU offense develops rhythm by balancing pass with run and avoiding turnovers, they should be able to win the time of possession battle, provided the Sooner defense plays at least decently. And judging by the nature of TOP for Iowa State this season, holding the ball longer than the Cyclones should lead to victory for Oklahoma.
Although they have had a solid season with several bright spots for Iowa State standards, the Cyclones ultimately are a team with almost nothing to lose and everything to win.
That being said, they will embrace their role as spoiler and will come out Saturday motivated and hungry to ruin another Top 10 team's season.
For Oklahoma, this means they also will have to be focused and hungry to expect success against Iowa State. The Cyclones won't simply hand it to them. But if they execute in all three phases of the game and consistently play at a high level, they should be fine.
Despite giving up more points than they've scored overall, the Cyclones have played well in the fourth quarter this season, outscoring their opponents 74-48.
As mentioned earlier, the key for Oklahoma is consistency and execution. They must play at a high level the entire game as opposed to establishing a lead early and then being complacent. Iowa State will not be afraid to take risks and will fight until the very end, and if the Sooners are not careful, the Cyclones could mount a comeback.
The fourth quarter must be a successful one for the Sooners; they must avoid turnovers, play well on defense and attack with a healthy dose of the run (assuming they are winning), using the pass when necessary.