Iowa State battles Oklahoma for the Big 12 crown

Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar stiff-arms an Oklahoma defender after catching a pass during the game against Oklahoma on Oct. 3, 2020 at Jack Trice Stadium.

Zane Douglas

The process and the hard work has paid off for Head Coach Matt Campbell and his team.

The 8-2 (8-1 conference) Iowa State Cyclones are in the Big 12 Championship, facing the longtime Big 12 powerhouse 7-2 (6-2 conference) Oklahoma Sooners.

“Even in a year like this, I felt really, really confident in our football team and our football program,” Campbell said. “I think my approach or everyone in our program’s approach is for the long haul.”

Led by redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler, the Sooners are coming off a six-game winning streak, beating Iowa State’s current win streak of five.

The Cyclones and Sooners both moved up a spot in the latest College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday, to No. 6 and No. 10 respectively.

While the top four will be challenging to attain, both teams will be fighting for important bowl selections as well.

The last time Oklahoma and Iowa State met was Oct. 3, where the Cyclones came away with a close victory.

This meeting is a long way from that one however, as the Cyclones were 1-1 playing after a loss to Louisiana in week one and a close win over TCU the following week and Oklahoma was 1-1 as well, with a win over Missouri State but an upset loss to Kansas State.

Since then, the teams have gone 12-1 combined, with Rattler leading the charge for the Sooners and running back Breece Hall doing the same for Iowa State.

Hall has been one of the best running backs in college football statistically this year.

The sophomore led college football in rushing yards in the regular season with 1,357 yards in just 10 games. That equaled 135.7 yards per game, which showed itself as Hall was under 100 yards in a game just once.

The Wichita, Kansas, native also finished with 17 touchdowns, which was good for fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

With Hall being the focus of the offense, it’s loosened the pressure on junior quarterback Brock Purdy, who has stepped up his game since the second half of the Baylor game.

“The smartest thing, I said this, that Breece Hall ever did was become roommates with Brock Purdy and Mike Rose,” Campbell said.

Purdy’s play after the Baylor game has been efficient and safe. Purdy has thrown for 901 yards and 10 touchdowns on 70-91 passing with no interceptions.

Purdy’s resurgence after an underwhelming first part of the year has been one of the reasons why Iowa State has been so effective recently.

For another Iowa State offensive player, the game against Oklahoma means something even more.

Redshirt junior tight end Charlie Kolar grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, and as an Iowa State player and Big 12 athlete, he knows the impact of beating the Sooners.

“They’ve won the Big 12 the last two years in a row,” Kolar said. “If you want to win the Big 12, you gotta beat OU.”

On the other side of the ball, the defense, which in the last three and a half games has made Purdy, Kolar and Hall’s jobs easier, will have a tough challenge.

In three and a half games, the Iowa State defense has only allowed 33 points, with 20 of those coming in the game against Texas.

The challenge for Campbell’s group is that Rattler and the Sooners have been as potent, if not more potent, than the Cyclones since Iowa State and Oklahoma last faced off, with Rattler finding his stride in his first year.

In the six games since his loss to Iowa State, Rattler is 111-166, with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Saturday will pose a challenge the Cyclones have seen before on their defensive end, but the Sooners are a new team after struggling early.

An important game against one of the top teams in the country is what both teams need right now and on Saturday that’s exactly what they’re getting.