Breaking down Saturday’s Big 12 championship football game between No. 6 Iowa State (8-2) and No. 10 Oklahoma (7-2) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Iowa State offense
Iowa State’s offense has been a well-oiled machine the entire season.
The Cyclones have scored at least 30 points in seven of their nine games. In the last five games, Iowa State’s offense has averaged 40 points per game.
The impetus to Iowa State’s success has to do with the balance the offense is able to strike game in and game out. Quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall were named first-team all-Big 12.
“Obviously we know those two are exceptional football players,” offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “You can take a lot of pressure off a quarterback when there’s a guy standing right next to him that can make plays. Any quarterback knows that when you have a strong running game, it takes a little bit of pressure off because you don’t have to throw it so much. Certainly that’s helped Brock.
“And I think it’s the same for Breece. Those two have a great relationship and I think what’s unique about those two guys is they really push each other. They’re really good friends and they’re really close teammates and I think those two guys challenge each other to be better on a day-to-day basis. Those two guys only elevate each other and they take a little bit of heat off of what each other does.”
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Iowa State defense
As well as the offense has played, Iowa State’s defense has played as good — if not better.
Iowa State’s defense has given up the fewest touchdowns in the Big 12 — just 20 all season, which averages out to just two per game.
Over the same five-game stretch, Iowa State’s defense is allowing just 15.8 points per game.
“I believe so,” defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said when he was asked if this is the best defensive group he’s coached. “You’d have to go back and look at numbers and statistics but I think so. Our guys have gotten better every game.
“You try to judge the group that you have based on the task at hand and I think for the most part our guys have done a good job with the task at hand. It hasn’t been pretty all the time on our side and I think there’s a lot still for us to grow in. But I do think our group has grown.”
Iowa State isn’t the only team in the Big 12 championship that ended the season on an absolute tear. Since Oklahoma’s loss to ISU, the Sooners have averaged 48 points per game.
Much of that can be attributed to the improvement of freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler. He is averaging 2.33 touchdowns per game since the Iowa State game and has thrown just two interceptions in those six games. He threw four total interceptions in Oklahoma’s two losses to Kansas State and Iowa State early in the season.
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“You take elite talent, and then you take a guy like Coach (Lincoln) Riley who has done as good of a job as anybody in our sport of developing quarterbacks,” ISU Coach Matt Campbell said. “Put those together and you get a proven track record of excellence. That’s what you see with a super talented quarterback and his growth throughout the season. Credit to the player and the coach.”
Oklahoma’s defense is nearly as stout as Iowa State’s.
The Sooners have given up 20.6 points per game since they’ve gone on their end-of-the-season tear. Oklahoma’s defense has gotten the most sacks and forced the second most interceptions in the Big 12.
Part of the defense’s improvement can be credited to defensive lineman Lonnie Perkins. Perkins missed the first three games of the season because of an NCAA suspension, which was eventually overturned after an appeal.
In four games, Perkins recorded 18 tackles, four sacks and eight tackles for loss.
— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) November 22, 2020
“Ronnie is a veteran and is an outstanding football player,” Campbell said. “Any time that you gain a veteran in this type of season, that experience has probably shown itself this year more than any other season. He’s certainly helped that defense.”
If you’re a fan of college football, this is the kind of conference championship game you want. Two high-powered teams on both sides of the ball that both ended the season in dominating fashion.
Prediction — Iowa State 35, Oklahoma 31