Position breakdown: Kansas

Oklahoma doesn't pull off the position sweep against the Jayhawks

The plays are as embarrassing as they are memorable.

Ahmad Thomas tackling his own teammate to spring Texas Tech for a touchdown.

Steven Parker bailing on his assignment and getting burned deep for another score – although that one was called back because of a holding.

Hatari Byrd’s general ineffectiveness.

None of them are good signs for Oklahoma’s potential at safety now or in the immediate future.

Something has to change, especially with an upset-minded Kansas team coming to Norman after nearly knocking off TCU.

Without improvement at the back end of the defense, Oklahoma will always be susceptible to losses, even against Kansas.

“Some of it is inexperience,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “Those guys are good players, and I feel they’ll continue to make improvement.”

Stoops said he doesn’t see the issues at safety during the week but that game situations can be a different animal.

“What are you going to do?” Stoops said. “They’ve got to adjust their angle and make a play on the ball.

With Kansas coming to down, there isn’t a lot of worry. Oklahoma would need far more than one position to breakdown to suffer an upset. Good safety play can make a lot of problems disappear, but there’s nothing that can make bad safety play irrelevant.

That is the key position battle this week. Here’s a look at how each team compares across the board:

Quarterback: Cody Thomas’ first half against Texas Tech wouldn’t beat much, but his second half was much better, albeit not dominating. Expect to see more of second-half Thomas than first-half Cody against Kansas, whose starting quarterback Michael Cummings has the worst per game yardage average in the Big 12. Oklahoma because Thomas couldn’t be as bad as he was in the first half again.

Running backs: Samaje Perine, Keith Ford and Alex Ross: All would be easy starters for the Jayhawks. But would Oklahoma’s No. 4 running back David Smith be a playmaker for Kansas?

Wide receivers: There’s still not much behind Sterling Shepard on the depth chart. Everybody else has made plays in spurts, but the consistency of the group is still in question. There’s just not enough on the other side to make Oklahoma sweat.

Tight end: Blake Bell is getting better every week, but on pure usage, it’s tough not to favor Jimmay Mundine, who has 40 catches, 537 yards and three touchdowns. Bell’s numbers just aren’t there yet. Mundine is the go-to option for Kansas.

Offensive line: The Sooners’ offensive line is the best in the Big 12. Period. End of story. Oklahoma wins over a Kansas front that has the second-fewest rushing yards in the country and allows 2.4 sacks per game.

Defensive line: In the latest Bleacher Report mock draft, Jordan Phillips is predicted at the end of the first round – specifically to New England. He’s ultra-disruptive and against one of the worst offensive lines in the conference expect Oklahoma and Phillips to run wild.

Linebackers: Oklahoma might have better athletes and more NFL-level talent, but Kansas has one big thing going for its linebackers: senior Ben Heeney. Heeney leads the Big 12 in tackles, mostly because the Jayhawks need someone to make a tackle. Although, he has been one of the better linebackers in the conference all season. He might even be the best. He’s a contender for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Eric Striker is disruptive while Jordan Evans and Dominique Alexander have been steady. Kansas has the best of the bunch this season. Jayhawks’ linebacker Michael Reynolds also has more tackles for loss and sacks than Striker.

Secondary: 291.5. That’s how many passing yards the worst team in the Big 12 Conference allows per game. That team is playing in this game, but it’s not Kansas. Skill-wise, Oklahoma might not be the worst secondary in the conference, but based on the Sooners’ play, it’s tough not to think Kansas has the better unit. Not until Oklahoma proves otherwise.

Special teams: Kansas has the best punter (Trevor Pardula) in the Big 12-based mostly on the fact that the Jayhawks’ need a good punter. Oklahoma has the top kick-off return man (Alex Ross). Kansas also has the worst kick: Matthew Wyman is kicking at 60 percent this season. Then there’s Oklahoma kick-off specialist Nick Hodgson. Touchback. Count it.


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