Oklahoma football: Four things that must happen for Sooners to escape Kansas upset bid?

Oct 15, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) throws during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) throws during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Six times since 2000, an Oklahoma football team has been undefeated when it played Kansas. Three of those times, the game was played at Kansas, and on two of the three occasions the Sooners were 7-0, as they are heading into Saturday’s homecoming game at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Oklahoma held the same exact record on its last visit to Jayhawk country around this same time in 2021. The Sooners miraculously escaped the 2021 game with a late comeback win to improve to 8-0.

The Sooners were also 7-0 when the Kansas game rolled around on the schedule in 2004. The 2004 game was in Norman and OU rolled to a 41-10 win. Oklahoma would not lose a game that season until game 13, when the No. 2-ranked Sooners met top-ranked USC in the national championship game played in the Orange Bowl. Suffice it to say that the Sooners bid for a second perfect season in the previous four years ended decisively on the floor of the Orange Bowl.

Bob Stoops, Lincoln Riley and Brent Venables are a collective 18-0 against Kansas. The Sooners last loss to Kansas was in 1997 when John Blake was the OU head coach.

What will it take for Oklahoma to keep the current win streak against Kansas intact and leave Lawrence with a victory on Saturday?

Stop the run defensively; get the run game going on offense

Despite outgaining UCF, the country’s third best rushing offense, in yards on the ground, Oklahoma still struggled with inconsistency until late in the game. This week the Sooners face a similar offense in Kansas, which features a pair of running backs who together average over seven yards per carry. If Kansas is able to shorten the game and keep Dillon Gabriel and the Sooner offense on the sidelines by running the ball effectively and staying out of third-and-long situations, it could be a long afternoon for Oklahoma.

Conversely, the Sooners need to get more from their run game in order to keep the Kansas defense off balance and open the field for Gabriel and OU’s 7th-ranked pass offense nationally. Like the Jayhawks, the Sooners need an effective rushing attack to avoid difficult third-and-long situations. The concern is this is something Oklahoma has struggled with all season. It is also a problem area for Kansas on the defensive side. The Jayhawks rank 94th in the FBS in rush defense.

Get out early and establish the lead

Oklahoma needs to get out early and establish the lead, as it has in most all of its games this year. The Sooners have outscored their seven opponents this season 105 to 23 in the first quarter and have not trailed at halftime in any game. If Kansas gets an early lead and forces OU to play from behind, it will allow the Jayhawks to use their strong running game to control clock. shorten the game and keep the Sooner offense on the sidelines, limiting OU’s offensive opportunities.

Moreover, Kansas is 13-3 under head coach Lance Leipold when they begin the fourth quarter with the lead. The other side of that coin, however, is that the Jayhawks are 0-16 when they enter the final quarter without the lead.

Limit big plays by the Kansas offense

Although the Oklahoma defense played very well a week ago, it still gave up plays of 86, 54 and 39 yards, the latter figure putting UCF in position to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Despite sporting an unbeaten record and playing dramatically better on defense this season, the Sooners have allowed big plays of 40-plus yards in virtually every contest. If OU gives up as many big plays downfield as it did against UCF, it will clearly be setting itself up for the upset.

Win the line of scrimmage and tackle, tackle, tackle

If Oklahoma is able to win the line of scrimmage like it did against what was touted as a bigger and stronger Texas offensive and defensive line, the Sooners will defeat Kansas and remain unbeaten. The Jayhawks have old and experienced players on both sides of the ball, so this won’t be an easy task.

If the Sooners are able to control the line of scrimmage on the defensive side, they will be in strong position to slow down the Kansas rushing attack and limit yards after contact. The more disruption OU can create for whichever KU quarterback plays, the greater the chance of creating a turnover or a sack. The Sooner offensive line must keep Dillon Gabriel clean and create run lanes for the OU running backs.

Oklahoma leads the nation averaging 9.3 tackles for loss per game this season. The Sooners have been aggressive to the ball and more physical on defense this season. They need to be sure to wrap up and get the Kansas ball carriers and receivers to the ground with sure tackles upon contact, which as a unit and unlike the recent past OU defenders have done a good job of this season.