Last week’s highlighted position battle was between Oklahoma State’s offensive line and Iowa State’s defensive front. The Pokes’ line lost that battle terribly, giving up seven sacks, 16 tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries. Justice Hill mustered 66 yards with a 2.8 yard-per-carry average. They enter a more favorable matchup against the second-worst rushing defense in the conference. Kansas State gave up 261 yards on the ground against Baylor last week, allowing the Bears to run for 5.4 yards per carry.
The matchup between OSU’s offensive line and KSU’s defensive front was a major factor in the Wildcats’ 45-40 upset over the Cowboys last year. Kansas State recorded four sacks and held the Pokes to their lowest rushing performance of the season.
But this isn’t the same front. The Wildcats have lost a number of their best players from last season, including linebacker Jayd Kirby and linemen Will Geary and Tanner Wood. They still have, however, Reggie Walker, who leads the team in tackles for loss and sacks.
The Cowboys will have to establish the run if they want to win in Manhattan. Their pass protection is too poor for first-year starter Taylor Cornelius to singlehandedly win the game for them in a pass-heavy strategy. The Cowboys don’t necessarily have a substantial quick game in their offense, and even with their standard two-back, seven-man protection, the line hasn’t been able to prove consistent reliability upfront (18 sacks on the season). Their success on the ground will likely be one of the biggest deciding factors on whether the Pokes get their second conference win or drop to 1-3 in Big 12 play.