Oklahoma Preview: OU Offense vs. Kansas Defense

The 7-0 Sooners will play the 5-2 Jayhawks at The Booth in Lawrence, Kansas at 11 AM CT on Saturday. Kansas is undefeated at home this season, having beaten Missouri State, Illinois, BYU, and UCF. OU has only played two true road games and has won both of them.

The Oklahoma offense stumbled last week against UCF, even though they did finish with 31 points. They were inconsistent for much of the first half, and struggled to run the ball effectively until the fourth quarter.

They’ll look to build more positive momentum against a Kansas defense that has only held opponents under 22 points once this year. You can find the first part of this week’s preview here. In this preview, we’ll explore the matchup between OU’s offense and Kansas’ defense.

Oklahoma Preview: OU Offense vs. Kansas Defense

Oklahoma Offense

The offense seemed average last week, and considering they still scored 31 points, that probably bodes well for the rest of the season. However, the UCF game made it clear that OU has to be better at running the ball.

It was great to see Gavin Sawchuk start gaining some chunk yards as the fourth quarter wore on, and it’s imperative that the Sooners commit to running the ball more. One of the hallmarks of great teams, especially one that win championships, is their ability to run the ball at will. So far, Oklahoma has not shown they can do that.

Marcus Major and Sawchuk played well enough, but they’ll have to improve as the competition gets stiffer. Kansas does not defend the rush well, so this game presents offensive coordinator, Jeff Lebby, and the Sooners offense a perfect opportunity to focus on their run game. Whether it’s Major, Sawchuk, or Tawee Walker, one running back needs to take charge and prove to the coaching staff that they are capable and reliable.

Dillon Gabriel performed admirably once again last week, although he was not his usual efficient self, only completing 53% of his passes against UCF. Perhaps the most interesting part of this weekend’s game, is whether or not the connection between Gabriel and Nic Anderson will continue to grow.

The Kansas secondary is not elite by any means, and Nic Anderson had a phenomenal game against the Knights. On the season, Anderson has caught sixteen passes, eight of which have been touchdowns. That’s pretty impressive. Now it’s up to Jalil Farooq to step up and give Gabriel two deep-threat targets down the field.

Key Player: Any Running Back

With Tawee Walker returns this week after serving an in-house suspension, so he could garner more touches than Sawchuk. Marcus Major is the teams defacto lead back, so he could also have a big game. Either way, Kansas’ porous rush needs to be exploited by any one of OU’s three running backs.

Kansas Defense

Kansas does not have a good defense, there’s no other way to say it. They’re allowing an average of 27.4 points, which is 85th out of 133 FBS teams. The Jayhawks give up almost 400 yards of offense per game, so Gabriel and the OU offense really should have no problem with them.

However, they do excel at rushing the quarterback; they’re second in the Big 12 with 19 sacks. Oklahoma has also done well at protecting Dillon Gabriel, so this could be a good test for the veteran Sooners line.

Austin Booker has been a stalwart on the Jayhawk defensive line, ranking near the top of the conference in both tackles for a loss and sacks, with eight and five respectively. Redshirt junior, Jereme Robinson, is Booker’s running mate and has tallied 4.5 sacks on the season.

The Jayhawks have also been atrocious on third down and red zone defense. In fact, the Kansas defense has allowed their opponents to score on every single one of their red zone trips, which is astonishing. The Sooners haven’t been perfect in the red zone or on third down, but they should be able to move the ball very well against the Jayhawks.

Key Player: Austin Booker

The 6’6” sophomore has been one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the Big 12 this season, and he could make it a long day for Dillon Gabriel if the OU line doesn’t neutralize him.

Analysis and Prediction

Oklahoma has an offense that is head and shoulders above the Kansas defense. As of writing, the Sooners are favored by 10 points and the over/under is set at 65.5 points. Considering the Jayhawks’ struggles on defense this season, it’s a bit surprising that the spread isn’t a big bigger. The Oklahoma offense should take care of business and leave Lawrence with a resounding win, but how much they will win by will be decided by OU’s defense.

Prediction: Oklahoma 35 – Kansas 20

Main Image: SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

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