Getting to know: Oklahoma football
Things don’t get easier for the Kansas football team.
Following a lopsided loss to TCU last week, KU (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) will welcome an even tougher opponent to town in Week 6. The Jayhawks will now have the tall task of trying to contain No. 6 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0) and its otherworldly offense this weekend.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is a transfer from Alabama, has the Sooners rolling to start the season. OU is averaging a nation-leading 668.5 offensive yards per game, which is 100 yards more than the next-highest average in college football. The Sooners are even averaging 10.4 yards per play.
KU, meanwhile, has struggled to get much going on the offensive end during Big 12 play. The defense was without its leading tackler in last week’s loss to the Horned Frogs. Even under the best of circumstances, though, this would be a brutal test for the Jayhawks.
Throw in the fact that it is supposed to be windy in Lawrence on Saturday, and it is hard to envision a scenario where Kansas makes this a game. The betting line certainly suggests that, as Oklahoma has been favored by more than 30 points all week.
Will the Jayhawks be able to cover? Let’s take a closer look at the Sooners to find out.
BREAKING DOWN OKLAHOMA:
Quarterback — It is hard not to marvel at what the Sooners are doing at this position. Hurts could be on his way to becoming OU’s third consecutive Heisman trophy winner, though he’s being utilized differently than Kyler Murray or Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma is relying on his ruhing ability, as Hurts has 47 rushing attempts for 443 yards (110.8 per game) and five touchdowns. Hurts also leads the nation in passing efficiency rating (249.9), yards per completion (19.6) and yards per pass attempt (15.2) thus far.
Running backs — Kennedy Brooks is expected to play after exiting the previous game with a left knee injury. He and Trey Sermon have been a dangerous combination through the first four games. Sermon has 274 yards and three scores on 34 attempts, while Brooks has piled up 206 yards and one score on 25 carries. Rhamondre Stevenson has also been given 25 carries, turning that into 211 yards and four touchdowns.
Receivers — Gone is Marquise Brown, but Oklahoma has another receiver that will be a high draft pick in 2020. CeeDee Lamb, who is 6-foot-2, 191 pounds, will pose a great challenge for KU’s secondary. He has 16 catches for 414 yards and six scores already this season. Lamb is coming off a seven-catch performance against Texas Tech, which netted him 185 yards and three touchdowns.
Offensive line — After losing four players to the NFL from last year’s team, Oklahoma has found a way to reload on the offensive line. Sophomore center Creed Humprhy, who is a captain, is the only returning starter on the offensive line. But the Sooners are still leading the nation in yards per rush (8.0) behind this unit. For comparison, OU averaged 6.6 yards per run to lead the country in that category last season.
Defensive line — Compared to last year, OU has a better defensive line this season even though there is still room for improvement. OU ranks No. 46 in the nation with 27 tackles for a loss on the year. Against Texas Tech, Oklahoma recorded just five tackles for a loss in the win last week. Ronnie Perkins, Neville Gallimore and LaRon Stokes are slated as starters on the defensive line.
Linebackers — Junior Kenneth Murray is anchoring a better linebacker unit this season. Murray finished second in the Big 12 and 13th nationally last season with 155 total tackles and was named Preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year entering 2019. In the season opener against Houston, Murray registered 13 total tackles, 2.5 TFLs, one breakup and one QB hurry.
Secondary — Perhaps Oklahoma’s biggest improvement under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch this season is on 3rd-and-long. According to Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World, opposing teams have picked up a first down on two of its 29 attempts when facing 3rd-and-7 or more in 2019. Some of that can be credited to the team’s play in the secondary, and it doesn’t bode well for a team, like Kansas, which has struggled on third down on the offensive end.
SPECIAL TEAMS — Oklahoma’s offense has been so absurdly good that it hasn’t had to kick too many field goals. The Sooners are just 4-for-6 on field goal attempts, but have converted on all 30 PATs this season. OU has also punted just eight teams on the year.
FUN FACT — This one could be over in a hurry if it is anything like Oklahoma’s previous four games. OU has outscored opponents 55-0 in the first quarter this season and 117-27 in the first half. Oklahoma has run the same number of plays as its opponents this season (258 each) but has outgained its foes by 1,302 yards (2,674-1,372).
VEGAS SAYS… This line is down to 32 points, which seems surprising based off public perception after the line opened up at 35 points. I’ll take the points for the second week in a row, because I think there is a good chance that Oklahoma lets off the gas after getting up five touchdowns. KU won’t score much in the first half, but can cover this spread late.
Prediction: Oklahoma 49, Kansas 20
This year’s record ATS: 2-3
Overall record ATS: 9-7