LOCATION: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma
TIME: 6:00 pm CT
BETTING LINE: Oklahoma -40.5
Kansas Player to Watch:
Kansas’ offense has faced endless struggles this season. The very few bright spots have been surprisingly dim. However, one positive for Kansas is wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. Sims is a productive pass-catcher, hauling in 5 of Kansas’ 11 passing touchdowns this season. His season-long reception came on a stunning 74-yard bomb. Quick off the snap with speed to burn, Sims is a dangerous playmaker for Kansas. If the Jayhawks can nail down more consistent play at QB, Sims could realize his full potential. He faces a worn-down Oklahoma secondary this week. That same Oklahoma defense gave up over 700 yards to Texas Tech through the air last week, which bodes very well for Sims. Unfortunately, most of his production relies on good, or at least decent, QB play, which has been hard to come by for Kansas.
Oklahoma Player to Watch:
This year, Mixon has emerged as one of the most naturally skilled player in the Big 12. His production has climbed tremendously, and his draft stock is following suit. Last week, Mixon ran all over Texas Tech’s awful defense, recording 377 total yards and 5 total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Kansas’ rush defense struggled against Oklahoma State’s sub-par running attack. Starting RB Samaje Perine’s temporary injury has opened the door for a huge stretch for Mixon. Perine is expected to miss three total games: Tech last week, Kansas this week, and Iowa State next week. Coincidentally, those teams all feature very weak defenses. Perhaps Mixon’s biggest challenger this game will be teammate Dede Westbrook. Westbrook is posting mind-boggling numbers, and this game may quickly become a talent show between these two premiere athletes.
Kansas Position Group Previews
OFFENSIVE LINE: Kansas’ quarterbacks have been under pressure far too often this season. Oklahoma boasts several great pass-rushers, which could spell serious trouble for Kansas in the trenches.
TIGHT ENDS: Ben Johnson hasn’t provided as much production so far this year as Kansas would have liked, but any receiver is a threat when they’re lining up against Oklahoma’s secondary.
RUNNING BACKS: Kansas has a trio of good athletes at RB, the most prominent of which is Ke’aun Kinner, who leads the team in rushing yards. Kinner faces a very two-faced Oklahoma rush defense, which is either really good or really bad for the Jayhawks.
QUARTERBACKS: Montell Cozart has carried the load under center for Kanas. He is matched up with a talented but underperforming Oklahoma secondary. Cozart will likely struggle to get a lot going, but don’t expect Oklahoma to completely shut him down.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Kansas possesses a pair of very talented receivers in Sims and LaQuvionte Gonzalez. Both are very dangerous playmakers that certainly have the talent to tear up Oklahoma’s defensive backs.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The most effective way to shut down Oklahoma’s offense is to put consistent pressure on Mayfield (easier said than done). Kansas has failed to put consistent pressure on anyone, and they’re also tasked with trying to tackle Mixon at the line of scrimmage. It could be a very long day for Kansas’ interior defense.
LINEBACKERS: Trying to slow down Oklahoma’s offense is an intimidating task for anyone. Visions of Perine stomping Kansas two years ago certainly still haunt these Kansas linebackers. They will do everything they can to prevent a repeat.
SECONDARY: If Kansas can just hold Westbrook to one touchdown on the day, they will have done better than the rest of the conference.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kansas’ special teams were good last week, but nothing amazing. Missed field goals haunted the Jayhawks two weeks ago. They will try not to let it bother them again this week.
COACHING: The beginning of the Beaty era has been somewhat disappointing for Jayhawk fans, although you wonder exactly what they expected. If nothing else, Kansas has been more competitive this season than in recent memory.
I’m not going to try to make this game compelling by teasing a miracle upset or suggesting that Kansas has any reasonable chance to keep this game close. Most likely, the biggest question in this game will be the number of touchdowns that Oklahoma’s three-headed offensive monster scores. I refuse to say that Kansas has absolutely no shot at stunning Oklahoma; however, I suggest you don’t get your hopes up. Kansas has succeeded tremendously in creating a culture of overwhelming disappointment. Failure is always expected, so any successes are met with great excitement. Just covering the spread in a conference game is a moral victory for Kansas. In this game, don’t expect more than that.
Kansas doesn’t match up well with Oklahoma whatsoever. The only favorable matchup is Kansas’ receivers vs. Oklahoma’s secondary; however, Kansas’ QB play has been bad enough that this matchup is very easy to brush off as insignificant. Oklahoma will most likely blow the doors off Kansas in every aspect of the game, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Oklahoma has historically dominated the Jayhawks on the football field. Expect that trend to continue this week.
Oklahoma Position Group Previews
OFFENSIVE LINE: Maybe it’s because of below-average Big 12 defensive fronts, but Oklahoma’s offensive line has become one of the most reliable parts of the team. As a whole, Oklahoma’s offense is firing on all cylinders right now, and the OL plays a huge role in that.
TIGHT ENDS: Mark Andrews is no longer completely missing, but he still has yet to return to true form. Or maybe Andrews is just taking a step back and letting Westbrook shine. Man, what a team player.
RUNNING BACKS: No Perine? No problem for Oklahoma’s supposedly bottomless backfield. Aside from Mixon’s big day, walk-on RB Abdul Adams pitched in last week. Adams started the season as the fifth-string RB.
QUARTERBACKS: It’s hard to believe that Baker Mayfield can do anything quietly, but the Sooners’ gunslinger has quietly become one of the most efficient passers in the country this season. He’s posted a passer rating of 195 this season, good for third in the nation.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Everyone knows about Westbrook, but his co-stars (or should I say background dancers) have been coming into their own lately. Walk-on Nick Basquine and transfer Geno Lewis have both become key contributors in recent weeks.
DEFENSIVE LINE: If the goal is to tackle the ground right next to the QB, then Oklahoma’s defensive line was amazing last week. Oklahoma created loads of pressure but was rarely able to complete the sack.
LINEBACKERS: Let’s not pretend like there are any positives to take away from last week’s defensive performance. Fortunately, Kansas’ offense is significantly less… Mahomes-y than Tech’s.
SECONDARY: For a moment there, it looked like Oklahoma’s secondary had begun to find its way. It looked like Oklahoma’s “wolfpack” was finally back. And then Patrick Mahomes eviscerated those DB’s for four and a half hours. Suddenly that wolfpack looks more like a puppy squad.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Last week was nothing special, but Oklahoma avoided the costly special teams mistakes that plagued them earlier in the season, which is always a good thing.
COACHING: I don’t think Lincoln Riley has gotten enough credit for his fantastic play-calling this season. He has built one of the most efficient Oklahoma offenses of all time.