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Oklahoma at Kansas: Preview, Predictions & Keys to the Game

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The Sooners travel to Lawrence on Saturday looking to build on their big victory against TCU.

Oklahoma v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With their win over TCU on Saturday, the Oklahoma Sooners showed once again that they are the class of the Big 12. Oklahoma looked dominant against TCU and looks to build on its victory on Saturday against the Kansas Jayhawks. The key for Oklahoma as they approach the next three games is to not look ahead to the College Football Playoff. They need to remain focused on improving every game and winning the Big 12 by dominating the next three opponents.

The domination should continue this Saturday against the hapless Jayhawks. Kansas is 1-9 on the season and has struggled mightily. Their lone victory came in Week 1 against Southeast Missouri State, a school that Norman North could probably hang with (that’s not true, but you get the point). Despite these struggles, Kansas has been able to put up points against some solid Big 12 opponents in recent weeks. The Jayhawks put up 27 points last week on a decent Texas defense, 20 on Kansas State to go along with 418 passing yards, and 34 on West Virginia back in September. However, that offense has also had some stinkers, as they were shut out by Iowa State and TCU (prior to the insertion of Carter Stanley as the starting QB) and only scored nine against a bad Baylor defense. If the Oklahoma defense isn't sharp on Saturday, the Jayhawks are capable of storing some touchdowns against the Sooners. While I don’t see Kansas being able to beat Oklahoma or even keep it very close, here are some keys to the game for both teams:

Oklahoma

Keep the train rolling on offense

As my boy Joel Klatt likes to say, this offense is the best offense in the country and it’s not even close. If the Oklahoma offense is able to continue to roll on Saturday, then the Sooners will win comfortably. This means allowing Baker Mayfield, otherwise known as “The Magic Man” by Gus Johnson, to do what he does best and direct the offense. The Sooners are able to continuously keep defenses off-balance by running well, passing well, and dominating the line of scrimmage with their massive offensive line.

On top of doing what they usually do on offense, coach Riley should try to get even more guys involved in the offense. This starts with Grant Calcaterra. I know that Grant is the backup tight end to one of the best tight ends in the country (Mark Andrews), but I would like to see him involved in the offense as much as possible. His touchdown catch last week against TCU showed once again how dynamic he can be if given the opportunity. Coach Riley may have already tried this but a two-tight end, goal-line set with Andrews and Calcaterra on opposite sides would be fun to see.

In addition to Calcaterra, it would be good to see even more production from Mykel Jones. With his build (5’11, 180) and the way he runs routes, he reminds me a lot of Sterling Shepard. I'm not saying that he is anywhere near that level, as Shepard was one of the greatest Oklahoma receivers of all time, but he has some similar traits. Like Shepard, Jones has the ability to work the slot as well as the outside. He had a great touchdown catch called back against TCU since he bobbled the ball. Look for Jones to potentially find the end zone on Saturday and complete the catch this time.

More reps for the young secondary

Although Kansas does not boast an especially dynamic passing attack, this game is a great opportunity for the freshmen in the secondary to get some key game reps. Each of the young trio of Robert Barnes, Tre Norwood and Tre Brown have things they can improve upon on Saturday. Barnes is a big hitter but sometimes goes for a big hit when he should just wrap up and make the sure tackle. Saturday’s matchup in Lawrence gives Barnes a chance to work on this, especially in the second half. As for Tre Brown, he often gets too physical with receivers and could start getting called for more penalties if he does not work on playing more with his feet than his hands. Norwood has the opposite problem — he needs to try and be a little more physical with receivers and then jump their route when he sees the opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this freshman trio is playing really well overall, and none of the things I pointed out are terribly problematic for these guys. I just think they should use this game to get more experience and improve on some of the little things. It will also be interesting to see if Jordan Thomas and Parnell Motley play in this game. Thomas is still questionable, and Motley was relegated to a special teams role against TCU. As the Sooners make their playoff run, they are going to need all hands on deck on defense so it’s important that Motley and Thomas do not check out as time goes on.

Kansas

Slow down the Oklahoma ground game

If this Kansas football team does have a strength, it’s their defensive line, which is especially adept at stopping the run. According to Pro Football focus, the Kansas defensive line has four players who came out with “very good” grades in terms of run stopping. These players include Dorance Armstrong, Daniel Wise, Osaze Ogbebor and Joe Dineen.

If the Kansas defensive line is able to stop the Oklahoma rushing attack led by Rodney Anderson, then that could keep the Jayhawks in the game for the first quarter. Past that, I do not see the Jayhawks hanging with the Sooners. Forcing the Heisman favorite to beat you with his arm is not something that any defense should be especially thrilled about — especially a Kansas defense that struggles in coverage. Look for the Jayhawks to try and take away the run early and get shredded through the air by “The Magic Man” and his crew.

Hit on some big plays

As we saw against TCU, even in an overall solid defensive performance, the Sooners are susceptible to the big play. They gave up some big plays early on to TCU and have struggled to stop chunk plays all season. A lot of this comes down to missed tackles and missed assignments, which could happen again on Saturday.

Look for Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. to be heavily involved in coach David Beaty’s game plan. Sims is the primary deep threat for the Jayhawks and could come up with some big plays against the fresh-faced Oklahoma secondary. On the season, Sims has 48 catches for 732 yards and four touchdowns. He could easily add to this total if Sophomore quarterback Carter Stanley can get him the ball downfield. Stanley has a solid arm but has struggled with accuracy and decision-making this season. For the Jayhawks to keep it close, Stanley will pretty much have to play the game of his life.

Prediction

As I mentioned above, I expect Oklahoma to cruise to a dominant victory on Saturday. To impress the CFP committee, Oklahoma needs to be dominant in all phases of the game. Look for Ceedee Lamb to have a big day on Saturday. I am betting the Sooners win in a blowout. I just purchased Big 12 Championship tickets yesterday, so the Sooners better win!

Oklahoma 62, Kansas 10