When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. Oklahoma rush defense
The Sooners have not exactly been incredible against the run this season, giving up an average of 139 yards per game and six touchdowns thus far. But given the fact that the KU offense, particularly its offensive line, is battling through a rough stretch, the Sooners figure to have enough up front to keep KU from getting too comfortable in the run game, which has been the Jayhawks’ bread and butter during the past year-and-a-half. OU ranks fourth in the Big 12 in rush defense and also features the conference’s top-ranked scoring defense (16.8 points per game against) and total defense (308.8 yards per game against). Seeing how KU struggled to run the ball during each of the past two weeks — 37 carries for 53 yards vs. Texas Tech and 34 carries for 46 yards vs. TCU — the Sooners likely will keep that trend going today when James Sims and company try to get the Jayhawks’ going again. Edge: Oklahoma.
Kansas pass offense vs. Oklahoma pass defense
This is probably an even bigger mismatch than the Sooners’ edge against Kansas in the running game. OU features the No. 1-ranked pass defense in the Big 12 and is giving up just 172 yards per game through the air to opponents. Led by all-conference cornerback Aaron Colvin, OU has the athletes to match up with opposing wideouts on the outside and the size and skill up front to make things difficult for the O-line and the quarterback. The Jayhawks have struggled mightily to get their passing game going and are looking for a spark this week from a new game plan procedure (quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus is in charge of putting together the passing attack) and the hope that former Sooner Justin McCay’s rise to the top of the depth chart again might get the struggling wideout going against his old team. Like with the running game, though, until KU proves it can move the ball again against somebody, the edge has to go to its opponent. Edge: Oklahoma.
When Oklahoma has the ball
Oklahoma rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
The Sooners feature four tailbacks with the ability to carry the load and a monster of a running quarterback in 6-foot-6, 252-pound Kansas native Blake Bell, known affectionately as The Belldozer. OU uses Bell much in the way Kansas State used Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein. Rather than trying to go with the read option, they simply line up, let Bell follow his blockers and use a power rushing attack to move down the field. OU is averaging 227 yards per game on the ground this season, with Bell having 148 yards to his credit. That ranks fourth on the team behind running backs Clay Brennan (476), Damien Williams (259) and former starting QB Trevor Knight (169), which makes the Sooners’ ground attack all the more dangerous because it does not rely solely on Bell to pick up the tough yards. Add to that the fact that the Jayhawks could be without starting middle linebacker Ben Heeney, and it’s easy to see why OU could be primed for a big game here. Edge: Oklahoma.
Oklahoma pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
Bell is not known for his prowess as a passing quarterback, but still he has completed 65 percent of his passes this season, most of them coming off of a deadly play-action look that sucks in opposing defenses and leaves Bell’s targets wide-open down the field. OU is averaging 196 yards through the air per game, which ranks ninth in the Big 12 (one spot behind Kansas), so if there’s an area in which the Sooners may be vulnerable, it’s definitely their passing offense. That becomes particularly good news for KU, which features two of the top three cornerbacks in the conference in JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald and ranks tied for second in sacks with 16. Overall, though, KU ranks just eighth in pass defense (233 yards per game) and seventh in total defense, which means the Jayhawks are going to need another strong effort from this improving unit to stay in this one. Edge: Push.
KU punter Trevor Pardula continues to add to his fantastic season, finishing last week’s loss to TCU with a 46.2-yard average on a whopping 10 punts and adding three touchbacks on four kickoffs to the tally. Josh Ford also continues to make a name for himself on special teams. The senior wide receiver has made four special-teams tackles and been in the right spot at the right time several times to down Pardula’s bombs. Oklahoma, meanwhile, ranks ninth in the league in punting but makes up for it by ranking second in kickoff-return average but just seventh in punt-return average. The Jayhawks, led by Connor Embree, rank sixth in punt-return average and fourth in kickoff returns. Both teams rank near the middle of the pack in punt and kickoff coverage, and OU’s Michael Hunnicutt ranks first in the Big 12 in field goals made, while KU’s Matthew Wyman sits tied for ninth with two field-goal makes in three tries. Edge: Push.