LAWRENCE — The Kansas offense would be wise not to spend too much time this week thinking about last year's outburst against Oklahoma, when KU put up 491 yards and 31 points against the Sooners in Norman.
The game may be in Lawrence this time, and the Jayhawks may be second nationally in total offense at 503 yards per game, but OU will bring a revitalized defense into Saturday's contest.
The Sooners are ranked eighth in the country in total defense, giving up just 190 yards passing and 68 yards rushing per game. On Saturday, OU's defense held Texas to 269 yards and forced three turnovers but still could not overcome a poor offensive showing to beat the Longhorns. Certainly, the Sooners do not play defense like a 3-3 team.
"They may have the best defensive personnel in the country," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "They're in that group. They are unbelievable. (Defensive tackle) Gerald McCoy is unbelievable. I looked him up after the game and I told him, 'My gosh, bless your heart. What a great player you are, son. You are unbelievable.' Their whole front is that way. Their linebackers are great. Their secondary can cover you."
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Last season, Oklahoma didn't have standout defensive end Auston English and linebacker Ryan Reynolds against KU because of injury. English, McCoy and defensive end Jeremy Beal form one of the most ferocious defensive fronts in the country, and they'll face off against a young KU offensive line that has allowed five sacks in two of the last three games.
Thing is, Oklahoma will rarely limit its pursuit to the front four. The Sooners appear to be bringing the heat more often than not.
"Oklahoma plays a very aggressive style of defense," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "They always have. They'll get after you, try to disrupt your rhythm. Against Texas, they dialed up a lot of blitzes, gave Texas a lot of looks, and that's what they do at OU. They do a really good job of trying to keep you off balance."
If KU can find a way to protect quarterback Todd Reesing _ a lot will be asked of running backs Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum in pass protection _ the Jayhawks will be hard to stop, even for OU. Reesing has thrown for 1,980 yards and 15 touchdowns, and receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier form the top receiving tandem in the nation. Briscoe leads the country in receiving yards per game (134), and Meier is second in receptions per game (9).
"They're major challenges," OU coach Bob Stoops said. "Todd does a great job of just creating plays. He has such a knack for improvising. Those receivers are excellent targets, big-play guys."
With KU's defense in turmoil and OU's offense struggling to get going without injured Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, this game should be a showdown between the Jayhawks' offense and the Sooners' defense. Both units are coming off big-time performances that still resulted in losses.
"Even though it was really good," Stoops said, "we feel it could have been better. It needed to be better."