The Sooners remained undefeated after a close win over UCF last weekend and will take on the 5-2 Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday, October 28.
The Jayhawks started off 5-0 last season, before stumbling to a 6-7 record and a bowl loss to Arkansas. To start this year, the experts picked Kansas to finish 9th in the Big 12, just behind UCF and Oklahoma State. They started 4-0 but have dropped games to Texas and Oklahoma State, and their record sits at 5-2.
Coach Lance Leipold and Kansas have been without their star quarterback, Jalon Daniels, for most of the season, and as of writing, he remains questionable for the game against Oklahoma. But Brent Venables’ defense will still be tested by sixth-year quarterback, Jason Bean. In the first part of this week’s preview, we’ll take a look at the matchup between Kansas’ offense and OU’s defense.
Oklahoma vs Kansas: What to Watch For When Kansas Has the Ball
Through seven games, the Jayhawk offense has been a high-scoring unit, averaging 35.4 points, which ranks third in the conference. They also sit just behind Oklahoma in terms of average yards per play, with 7.1 compared to OU’s 7.2. Similarly, they’ve also been the Big 12’s second-most efficient offense behind the Sooners.
Another number from the Kansas offense that jumps off the page is their pass attempts. With only 170 attempts, they rank last in the conference, and most of that should be chalked up to the absence of Daniels.
But they’ve also been extremely adept at running the ball, with their 5.6 average yards per rush tied for the Big 12 lead. Devin Neal, a redshirt sophomore, leads the way for the Jayhawks’ rushing attack and is probably their best player on offense. He’s totaled 659 rushing yards and six scores. He also averages 7.3 yards per rush, and the Sooner defense will need to focus on shutting him down to prevent Kansas from controlling the clock.
Jason Bean has a decent arm and will scramble if he has the opportunity. He has also done well to take care of the football but has a relatively good 65.3% completion percentage. Last week, he also threw for 410 yards in a loss to Oklahoma State, so while he could test OU with his arm, he is not the most talented quarterback the Sooners have seen.
Key Player: Devin Neal
If Oklahoma can limit the damage that Neal does on the ground, it would go a long way to minimizing the effectiveness of the Jayhawk offense.
The Sooner defense is coming off an average performance against UCF in which they gave up 397 yards of offense to the Knights. UCF has a more explosive offense than Kansas, but if the Sooners overlook the Jayhawks, they could find themselves in trouble.
Javon Baker gashed the OU secondary for 134 yards on five catches, and OU is really missing a lockdown corner that would complete their defensive unit. The Sooners’ defensive backs are young for the most part, but it would be nice to see someone like Gentry Williams or Peyton Bowen become more consistent players against a Kansas receiving corps that has not been lighting the league on fire.
Because of Kansas’ proclivity for running the ball, the defensive line, which has performed admirably so far, will be key to keeping Kansas off the scoreboard. Look for Isaiah Coe and Jonah Laulu to be impact players in rush defense this weekend.
Key Player: Ethan Downs
With Stutsman sure to collect his share of tackles, and the defensive line’s preoccupation with defending the rush, Downs will have a chance to impact the game with his pass-rushing ability and add to his 4.5 sacks on the season.
The Oklahoma defense has given up 30 and 29 points over their last two games, and it feels like they lost some of the momentum they had in the early season. Now, they are still a talented unit, but this game against Kansas could be a chance to make a statement.
With the Jayhawks down to their second-string signal caller, it would be reassuring to see the defense flex its muscles and hold Kansas to under 20 points.
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