Oklahoma football: We could easily see both Sooner QBs against Kansas

Nov 7, 2020; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Drake Stoops (12) makes a catch as Kansas Jayhawks safety Kenny Logan Jr. (1) defends during the first half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The play was called back due to penalty. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2020; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Drake Stoops (12) makes a catch as Kansas Jayhawks safety Kenny Logan Jr. (1) defends during the first half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The play was called back due to penalty. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

There isn’t one soul — not one — in the entire college football universe who would pick an Oklahoma football upset to Kansas on a straight-up basis.

Give the hapless Jayhawks 38 points, however, well that might be a different matter.

That is the betting line for the Sooners’ game on Saturday with the perennial Big 12 cellar-dweller Kansas.

Oklahoma has won 73 percent of the 111 games between these two teams, including a current 16-game winning streak against the Jayhawks. That is almost as dominant as Kansas has been against the Sooners in men’s basketball (151-69, .686).

Unfortunately for the 1-5 Jayhawks, this is football season.

Ranked No. 3 this week in the Associated Press poll, the 7-0 Sooners travel to Lawrence, Kansas, this weekend to play Kansas.

Since the 1970s, Oklahoma has lost just three times in 22 games played on the road at Kansas. The last time the Sooners lost at Kansas was in 1997, when John Blake’s OU team lost 20-17 to the Jayhawks.

Statistically, this game is a giant mismatch. The Sooners would have to totally sleepwalk through this game for the Jayhawks to pull the highly improbable upset. Never say never, though. And there is historical proof of that in the all-time series between these two schools.

In 1984, No. 2-ranked Oklahoma played on the road against an unranked Kansas squad. OU took a 3-0 lead after one quarter, but managed just 8 more points the remainder of the game, and that came in the final quarter after Kansas already had the game in hand. The Jayhawks upset the Sooners 28-11.

Oklahoma lost just one more time in the 1984 season, falling 28-17 to Washington in the Orange Bowl.

Kansas also upset another No. 2-ranked Oklahoma team, this time in Norman in the 1975 season. Barry Switzer’s Sooners were riding a 28-game winning streak when Kansas came to town that season. Quarterback Nolan Cromwell led Kansas to  a shocking 28-3 upset over an Oklahoma team that was loaded with All-American talent and stars like Joe Washington and Billy Sims.

Saturday, Oct. 23. 1-5. 821. Sooners -38.5. 11 AM CT. 7-0. 815. ESPN

That was the only game the Sooners would lose in the 1975 season. They went on to beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl and claim their second consecutive national championship under Switzer.

So, before counting the Jayhawks out of this game, just remember what happened to a higher-ranked Oklahoma team on two other occasions facing Kansas.

As for the 2021 matchup between Oklahoma and Kansas at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, the game is scheduled for an 11 a.m. kickoff and will be televised nationally on ESPN. Mark Jones will do the play-by-play, with Robert Griffin III providing analysis and Quint Kessenich on the sidelines.

What to watch for from Kansas

Kansas won its season opener 17-14 over South Dakota. Since then, the Jayhawks have lost five straight and given up no fewer than 41 points in the process. They sit at the bottom or near the bottom of the Big 12 in most every major statistical area.

Despite losing five games by an average score of 49-17, the Jayhawks have been especially good in two areas: protecting the football and avoiding costly penalties. Kansas has turned the ball over just six times in as many games. That ranks 23rd-best nationally. They have been penalized 27 times, sixth fewest among FBS teams.

Kansas is led at quarterback by North Texas transfer Jason Bean, who hails from the same hometown as OU’s Kennedy Brooks (Mansfield, Texas). Bean has completed 55 percent of his pass attempts for 932 yards and five touchdowns. He is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 303 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Devin Neal is Kansas’ leading ball carrier with 318 rushing yards and an average of 4.6 yards per carry.

Kwamie Lassiter II and Trevor Wilson are Bean’s favorite receiving targets, with 21 and 17 catches, respectively, through six games.

The Jayhawks are dead last in the Big 12 in total defense and rank 126th nationally in that category, which doesn’t bode well going against a re-energized Oklahoma offense. Safety Kenny Logan is Kansas’ best defensive player. He leads the team with 40 tackles, an interception, two forced fumbles and five pass breakups.

What to watch for from Oklahoma

True freshman Caleb Williams will make his second career start at quarterback for the Sooners. A week ago, in the win over TCU, he accounted for 361 of Oklahoma’s 525 yards of total offense and five touchdowns. Williams’ 200.8 pass-efficiency rating would rank second nationally if he qualified with the number of games and pass attempts, but his performance in his last two games has markedly lifted the Sooners’ already potent offense.

Williams has led 21 offensive possessions since replacing Spencer Rattler as starting quarterback. Oklahoma has scored on 16 of those possessions. I suspect we’ll see plenty of both Sooner quarterbacks against Kansas.

Kansas has been particularly vulnerable this season against the run. The past two games, Kennedy Brooks has averaged 185 rushing yards and a stout 8.2 yards per carry. He has 688 rushing yards for the season and is well on his way to a third OU season with over 1,000 yards on the ground.

Nine different Oklahoma receivers have at least eight catches this season. Marvin Mims, Mike Woods, Jadon Haselwood and Mario Williams all have 20-plus receptions. Haselwood leads the Sooners with five touchdown catches.

Kansas does not run the ball all that well, and Oklahoma has one of the best rushing defenses in the country. The Sooners are allowing just 104 rushing yards per game, and they’ve held five of the seven opponents under 100 yards on the ground.

The Oklahoma secondary, which has been hit with injuries, has been the weak link in OU’s improved defense this season. If the Sooners are able to shut down the Kansas run game, the Jayhawks may be forced to the air more than they would like, but it won’t be like going up against the West Virginia or Texas passing game.

The Sooners are also well equipped on special teams. Gabe Brkic ranks second in the nation with 16 field goals in 19 attempts and four of five from over 50 yards.

Arizona State transfer Michael Turk leads the Big 12 with an average of 51.9 yards per punt. That would rank No. 2 nationally, but OU doesn’t have to punt very much. Turk has punted just 14 times in five games. When he does punt, however, it generally leaves the Sooners in excellent field position.

Savvy Sooner stat(s)

Oklahoma is 45-8 in regular-season games on the road since the start of the 2012 season. The Sooners are 29-5 on the road as the No. 3-ranked team in the AP poll.

The Sooners have scored at least 54 points in each of the last 12 games against Kansas.

Bottom line

It’s not a question of which team will win this game. More a question of by how much. The Sooners are favored by five touchdowns (-38.5), but they have struggled to cover the spread in five of their seven games. Iowa State beat Kansas by 52 points and Oklahoma is the best offense the Jayhawks have faced this season, particularly with Caleb Williams at QB. You do the math. Oklahoma 59, Kansas 10