Kansas Hoping For Big Win Today

Heading into last week's games, some media members mentioned that an Oklahoma win against Texas and a Kansas win against Colorado would likely push the ever-popular ESPN College Gameday program to Lawrence.

Oh, what a difference a week makes. The Jayhawks lost a 34-30 heartbreaker to the Buffaloes, while Oklahoma lost not only its game with Texas, but also its Heisman-winning quarterback and potentially its starting running back as well.

It was one more shot to the psyche of a Sooner (3-3, 1-1) squad that has seen several this season. Just a year after setting all kinds of offensive land speed records, the Sooners don't rank in the Big 12's top third in any of the major categories. The 31.3 points per game the Sooners average is seventh in the league, the same place occupied by the Sooners' rushing offense and pass efficiency. The Sooners are fifth in total offense and passing offense, while converting a horrid 36.4 percent of their third downs.

A large portion of those struggles can be explained by the loss of reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford to injury. Quarterback Landry Jones (6-foot-4, 216 pounds) hasn't been bad, completing 59 percent of his passes for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns to five interceptions. But those numbers represent a huge dropoff from those put up by Bradford just a year ago. Just a redshirt freshman, Jones is big and has a strong arm, but he lacks Bradford's accuracy and leadership at this point.

Running back DeMarco Murray (6-1 214) is listed as questionable for the Kansas game, and some think he won't be ready to go. Murray leads the Sooners with 403 yards rushing and has another 261 yards receiving. But the Sooners are more capable of dealing with that loss, thanks to Chris Brown (5-10 200) and a deep and talented running back unit. Brown has 361 yards and three touchdowns on the year, and is one of the conference's top runners. Fullback Matt Clapp (6-2 246) is among the best in college football as a backfield blocker.

The Sooner receiving group lost its biggest threat when tight end Jermaine Gresham was knocked out for the season. That's not to say that they don't still have weapons. Brandon Caleb (6-1 186) leads the team with 382 receiving yards but Ryan Broyles (5-11 178) is the team's top playmaker. Operating mostly out of the slot, the fleet-footed sophomore already has eight receiving touchdowns. Cameron Kenney (6-1 190) is the third starter in the group, but those aren't the only three receivers the Jayhawks will see. The Sooners love to rotate in fresh legs and have options with former running back Mossis Madu (6-0 200), Adron Tennell (6-4 199) and Dejuan Miller (6-4 224), who have combined for another 215 receiving yards. Trent Ratterree (6-3 225) is the starting tight end, though he has yet to show himself as a major weapon in the Sooner attack.
Even with Bradford and Gresham's injuries, the weak link of the offense has come along the offensive line. Just a year after paving the way for arguably the greatest offense of all time, the unit returned just one starter, left tackle Trent Williams (6-5 318). The difference has been evident even to the most casual of college football fans. Beyond the consistent pressure applied to Bradford and Jones, the line has only allowed the Sooners to average 3.9 yards per carry. Starting next to Williams is left guard Brody Eldridge (6-5 265), a former tight end who was shifted to center, back to tight end and now to guard. Like a baseball utility man, Eldridge has great strength and is a wonderful athlete that Stoops seems to plug wherever he has a hole. Center Ben Habern (6-3 288) and right guard Tavaris Jeffries (6-4 309) make up the rest of the interior. Starting right tackle Jarvis Jones (6-7 297) is an LSU transfer with talent.

But the defense is a different story entirely. The Sooners rank first in the Big 12 in scoring defense, red zone defense and first downs allowed, while they are second in sacks, rushing defense, passing defense, and total defense.

Arguably the country's top defensive line has played a major role in that success. Ends Jeremy Beal (6-3 261) and Auston English (6-3 251) have combined for 14.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in six games. A whopping 9.5 of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's (6-4 297) 14 tackles have been for loss, while Adrian Taylor (6-4 291) has excelled as a space-plugger on a defense that allows just 2.2 yards per carry. Beal and
English are among the country's top players at their position.

That defensive line allows a talented trio of linebackers to flow aggressively to the ball. Travis Lewis (6-2 232) has continued on his torrid pace from a year ago, racking up 51 tackles, 4.5 of which have been for loss. Ryan Reynolds (6-2 225) has come back from his knee injury to serve again as the Sooners' primary run-stuffer in the middle. Keenan Clayton (6-1 221) is one of the league's top coverage linebackers. He has two interceptions, but might have had five or six if not for drops.

One player who has made the most of his interception opportunities is boundary cornerback Brian Jackson (6-1 200), who has four of them. He has also been solid in run support with 26 tackles. Dominique Franks (6-0 192) is more of a silky athlete at his field cornerback spot, where he has 16 tackles and one interception. Free safety Quinton Carter (6-1 193) is a big hitter who has 39 stops and an interception on the year. Strong safety Sam Proctor (6-0 208) is a talented and versatile athlete.

The Sooners' special teams have been up-and-down. The up? How about kicker Jimmy Stevens (5-6 159) booting an automatic 11-11 from inside of 40, punter Tress Way (6-1 215) averaging almost 44 yards per punt and Franks averaging 17 yards per punt return. The bad? The Sooners rank 11th in the Big 12 in kickoff coverage, have been unspectacular at best in the kickoff return game and are 0-3 on field goals 40 yards and beyond.

The Sooners may find themselves short on weapons heading into Kansas's Memorial Stadium Saturday, but that doesn't mean they won't still have enough to win, and win solidly if the Jayhawks don't bring their ‘A' game.

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