No. 18 Sooners visit Iowa State with slim margin for error

Experience has taught Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley his team can overcome a bad loss and make the College Football Playoff.

He brushed off suggestions last week’s home defeat to Kansas State will cost the Big 12 a spot in the CFP and that his team is done.

“I’ve heard the same thing for all five years I’ve been here at OU,” Riley said. “That’s what people have to talk about right now. This is going to be a little bit of crazy season like they all are.”

The 18th-ranked Sooners (1-1, 0-1) are looking for their fourth straight playoff appearance. With eight regular-season games left — barring cancellations because of COVID-19 — the five-time defending Big 12 champions’ margin of error is slim heading to Ames, Iowa, to play Iowa State (1-1, 1-0) on Saturday night.

The Cyclones have given OU fits since Matt Campbell took over in 2016. Other than Kansas State, which has beaten the Sooners two straight years, no Big 12 team has played them tougher the last four years. None of the meetings was decided by more than 10 points.

Iowa State knocked off OU on the road in 2017 and lost 42-41 last year after a failed two-point conversion in the last minute.

“We know what it was like my freshman year. You could say Iowa State was the laughingstock of the Big 12,” fifth-year Cyclones offensive lineman Sean Foster said. “We have the senior group, the senior leadership in this facility, that we are able to compete every single Saturday and it doesn’t matter who with.”

Before blowing a 21-point lead and losing 38-35 to four-touchdown-underdog K-State, Oklahoma hadn’t lost so early since it started 1-2 in 2016. Last year, the Sooners were 7-0 when they lost to K-State. They won a bunch of close games and saw their path to the playoff clear after Alabama and Minnesota closed the regular season with losses.

The Sooners were all but written off in 2018 after Texas beat them at midseason, but they avenged that loss in the Big 12 championship game and got into the playoff after Georgia lost to Alabama in the SEC title game. In 2017, they recovered from their loss to Iowa State to win eight straight and make the playoff easily.

RATTLED RATTLER?

OU quarterback Spencer Rattler enters his first road game off a rough outing in which he threw three interceptions, the last one in the final seconds.

“There ain’t a player in history that hasn’t had his struggles,” Riley said. “It’s going to happen. You’re ultimately defined by the team. Quarterbacks are ultimately defined by how they respond to it as well. So that’s the challenge. He’s a competitive kid. He’s eager to learn. I have zero doubt in my mind that he’s going to take this and run with it in the correct direction.”

AGONY IN AMES

Iowa State hasn’t beaten Oklahoma at home since 1960, and the Sooners’ .917 series winning percentage (76-6-2) is the best by one FBS program against another in a series with at least 50 games played.

ON THE REBOUND

Oklahoma hasn’t lost back-to-back regular-season games since October 1999, the longest active streak by far. Alabama hasn’t lost consecutive regular-season games since 2007.

STADIUM CAPACITY SET AT 15,000

Iowa State is allowing up to 15,000 fans into Jack Trice Stadium, with fans required to wear face coverings and a prohibition on tailgating. Athletic director Jamie Pollard said campus officials made the decision after weekly COVID-19 positivity rates had declined on campus and across Story County.

No fans were allowed for the Cyclones’ opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 12.

FRIEND OR FOE?

OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and Iowa State’s Campbell were teammates at Mount Union from 1999-2001 and won two Division III titles. Grinch was a safety and Campbell was a defensive lineman.

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