Oklahoma football fans are jacked! In the last two weeks their team has avenged last year's home loss to Texas Tech and routed hated rival Texas. The Sooners find themselves back in the Top 10 and at least in the conversation for the BCS championship.
This time next week we'll be getting ready for Notre Dame to roll into town for a game that will be billed as the national game of the week. Before we get there, though, Oklahoma has to handle their business against Kansas on Saturday night. The Jayhawks find themselves in the exact opposite position of the Sooners and to help us get a feel of a KU fan's perspective on this game is Owen from SBN's outstanding Kansas blog Rock Chalk Talk.
MH: Just listening to Charlie Weis talk you can tell he's a man of superior football knowledge. How good of a job has he done at relating to the fans and connecting with players? Does any of that help sooth over the 1-5 start?
Owen: I think he's definitely connected with the players and I think that's evident in their effort. There is a different feel around the program from the player side. They feel like there is accountability, direction and some actual football knowledge pulling the strings. The fact is, players want leadership and they didn't have it. Now they do and I think that's a positive.
As for the fans I think it's a 50/50 proposition. The fall from grace has been so swift that many are in a 'show me don't tell me mode' so on some level there are skeptics that will need to see a finished product with a positive result before turning. On the other hand you have a lot of guarded optimism because he is a man who knows football and despite his somewhat sarcastic arrogance, he does seem less serious about it and more than willing to throw out what isn't working and try something new. Personally I like the direction right now. Next year it will need to result in more wins, but for now we're getting better every week and we've been competitive into the 4th quarter in all but one week.
MH: I'm a huge fan of James Sims. How much does having him back from suspension improve the offense?
Owen: It's been a tremendous boost. Now if we could just get Tony Pierson back too then we might have a really solid one two punch. The only bad thing is that the level of competition has gone up as well so it might not provide enough of a lift to get us over the hump and into the win column.
In all honesty he's extremely underrated and I think a big part of that is the fact that he missed the first three games. He's a high energy guy that's patient and he has an excellent football IQ. I just really wish we could bring the rest of the offense up to his level.
MH: How would you best describe the quarterback situation at Kansas?
Owen: Stall mode. Dayne Crist has turned out to be a dud. Michael Cummings is a stop gap at best. We'll play both but Christian Matthews and the Jayhawk(wildcat) formation might be our best option. I think the best quarterback on our team is sitting out this year due to transfer rules and right now Weis is trying to do whatever he can to compensate for subpar QB play and a horrific kicking game. If Dayne Crist even lives up to three star status and the kicking game is middle of the pack, Kansas is probably 4-2 or dare I say 5-1. It's been that bad.
MH: Defensively, the Jayhawks are struggling to stop the rush. Is this a personnel issue or a scheming issue?
Owen: I think it's still a personnel issue. We're getting better but our team really was horrifically coached the last two seasons and it's like reprogramming an entire unit. The Kansas State game was really the worst, much of the other damage was done by some fairly mobile quarterbacks. Last week against Oklahoma State Kansas really did shut down Joseph Randle and that was a huge step forward. We'll see if that continues, but my confidence is growing in this department when looking at the longterm.
MH: Prediction time. Tell us how you think it's gonna shake down in Norman on Saturday night.
Owen: Oklahoma is a 35 point favorite. Kansas has not really put together back to back good games and they are coming off of a decent one last weekend. With that in mind I do think Kansas is playing with some confidence and I think the UT letdown/look ahead to ND will happen for OU. That doesn't mean KU wins, but I say the Jayhawks keep this within 14 through 3, lose by 21 tops. I'll say 38-17 Oklahoma...too soon for optimism? Probably, but the sun is shining today.