OU football: Will the Sooners be able to slow down Iowa State's Breece Hall in Big 12 Championship Game?
Here’s a look at some keys to keep an eye on when No. 10 OU plays No. 6 Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday:
3 players to watch
Robert Barnes: Barnes played against Iowa State the first time around, but the senior’s primary contributions before the most recent game against Baylor came on special teams. Barnes, who added weight in the offseason after moving to linebacker, is back at safety now, though, and his combination of size and speed could be an asset against the Cyclones’ big, physical receivers.
Jeremiah Hall: Hall scored two touchdowns against the Cyclones on Oct. 3, but with Austin Stogner likely out for the third consecutive game, Hall’s presence is even more important for the Sooners’ offense now. Hall was held without a catch against Baylor but figures to get chances in this one, plus he’ll be counted on often to help block.
David Ugwoegbu: The sophomore linebacker moved into the starting lineup against Kansas and has remained there, the last two at weakside linebacker. He has 11 tackles and an interception in the last two games — by far better than any three-game stretch in the first 17 games of his career, much less two. Ugwoegbu didn’t have a tackle in the first meeting with the Cyclones.
2 big questions
Can the Sooners block better? When OU played in Ames on Oct. 3, the offensive line was a bit of a mess. But they came together over the next two games and had been rolling along pretty well until the Dec. 5 game against Baylor, when the Sooners managed just 76 yards rushing and Spencer Rattler was sacked four times. Iowa State had 24 sacks in Big 12 play, but got to Rattler just twice in the first meeting.
Will the Sooners be able to slow down Breece Hall? Hall has been the nation’s top running back this season, and had a big game against the Sooners in the first meeting, with 139 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. In two career games against OU, Hall has 249 rushing yards. OU’s run defense has steadily improved this year, especially with the addition of Ronnie Perkins to the defensive line, but they haven’t had a challenge since Perkins’ return like they’ll face in Hall, who has scored a rushing touchdown in every game this season.
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- Video: OU Football: Big 12 Championship & Signing Day
1 wild prediction
OU scores off a blocked kick.
The Sooners haven’t returned a blocked kick for a touchdown this season — Austin Stogner scored on a blocked punt last season against West Virginia — but OU has a pair of blocks this season. David Ugwoegbu blocked a punt and Perrion Winfrey a field goal against Texas. OU gets one against the Cyclones, potentially turning the tide in a bid for a sixth consecutive Big 12 title.
Ryan Aber covers OU athletics, especially football. You can send your story ideas to him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @ryaber. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.