University of Kansas

Heisman candidate QB not biggest concern for KU against Oklahoma

Oklahoma's quarterback Baker Mayfield passes under heavy pursuit by Texas Tech last Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.
Oklahoma's quarterback Baker Mayfield passes under heavy pursuit by Texas Tech last Saturday in Lubbock, Texas. Associated Press

When Kansas coach David Beaty rewatched film of the Oklahoma offense from its 66-59 victory over Texas Tech last week, he had the same reaction as many others.

“What they did was amazing,” Beaty said.

The performance broke a few records.

The two teams’ 1,708 yards of offense was the most in a Bowl Subdivision game, while quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 545 yards and a school-best seven touchdowns.

So yes, the defensive challenge should be immense for KU as the team travels to face No. 16 Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Saturday.

“They are stinking good,” Beaty said. “They are good.”

Though Mayfield has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate, he’s probably not the biggest worry for KU.

That would be running back Joe Mixon, who had 377 all-purpose yards last week — the most of any FBS player this season. Beaty described the back as “one of the best players I’ve seen in a long, long time.”

Recent history isn’t kind to KU, either. Two years ago in Norman, KU’s defense allowed an NCAA record 427 rushing yards to Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, who is out this week with a leg injury.

Stopping opponents’ run game also has been KU’s defensive weakness this season, as the Jayhawks rank eighth in the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed per attempt (4.8).

“You’ve got to be really smart about not letting them turn a 20-yard gain into a 70-yard gain,” Beaty said. “Because they can do it in a heartbeat.”

Mayfield also had plenty of success in Oklahoma’s 62-7 victory over KU last year in Lawrence. He completed 27 of 32 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns before getting subbed out in the third quarter.

“He can make throws that a lot of guys can’t make,” Beaty said. “He’s got confidence unlike very many that I’ve seen.”

Oklahoma’s offense goes beyond those two players.

Receiver Dede Westbrook, whom Beaty previously recruited when he was an assistant at Texas A&M, is fourth nationally with 133 receiving yards per game.

The Sooner offensive line also has been elite, ranking fifth in the advanced measure “adjusted line yards” from Football Outsiders that works to determine how much credit blockers should get for a team’s run game.

Oddsmakers are, predictably, not giving the Jayhawks much of a chance. Oklahoma is a 40 1/2-point favorite, making KU the second-largest underdog of any team this week.

“It’s going to be a great challenge,” Beaty said. “I know our guys are excited about it.”

Jesse Newell: @jessenewell

Kansas at No. 16 Oklahoma

  • When: 6 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
  • Records: KU 1-6, 0-4 Big 12; OU 5-2, 4-0
  • Radio: KFH, 1240-AM, 97.5-FM; KQAM, 1410-AM
  • TV: FS1

Three things about Oklahoma

1. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is 11-0 against KU, with each of those victories coming with a margin of at least 15 points.

2. The Sooners are looking to start 5-0 in Big 12 play for the first time since 2004. The other three times this has happened under Stoops, Oklahoma went on to finish with a perfect 8-0 Big 12 record.

3. Oklahoma did not punt in last year’s 62-7 victory over KU in Lawrence, the first time the team had accomplished that since 1990.

Key matchup

KU’s offense vs. itself. KU already faces a talent deficit against most Big 12 opponents, but the team has made it even more difficult by posting an NCAA-leading 25 turnovers. Though the Jayhawks’ two interceptions were a bit fluky last week (one was a great play by a defensive tackle; the other was a deflection off a receiver’s facemask), the team still needs to prove it can play clean football through an entire game.

Jesse Newell’s pick: Oklahoma, 48-20

The 40 1/2-point spread seems a bit high to me. Even if the score didn’t indicate it, KU is coming off one of its best offensive efforts of the year, with a few bad breaks turning promising plays into crushing turnovers the team couldn’t overcome. The offensive line also had its best game, and with Cozart managing the offense, KU many times was able to get into numbers advantages that resulted in solid plays against Oklahoma State. This will be a tough game for the Jayhawks defense, but predicting Oklahoma to get to the high 50s or even 60s seems ambitious. Even though KU has had lots of issues on the road lately, this still seems like one that won’t get out of hand the way Vegas is predicting.

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