1. QB Cody Thomas: After a predictably, unimpressive first half for the redshirt freshman in his first start, he had a solid second half against Texas Tech and should be more comfortable at home vs. an improving KU team. Thomas has a big arm but his running surprised many. He lead the metroplex in doubles and triples in high school baseball which should indicate to all that the 6-foot-4 athlete can run. KU will likely throw a multitude of defensive looks at young Thomas whose job will be to manage the game and protect the ball. These days managing the game at OU largely means handing the ball off to Samaje Perine. No reason for Thomas to regress unless he’s provided a game plan that’s too complex or he makes bad decisions that result in interceptions or fumbles.
2. Offensive line: If the brisket brigade of rather large men can come off the ball and get a push, many challenges related to the Sooner offensive are solved. The ability to run the ball creates play action passing opportunities and controls the clock so, once again, how well Bedenbaugh’s Boys play is a major key to the game that kicks off at the undesirable hour of 11 am. The person in TV Land who decides these kick off times must have grown up on a dairy farm.
3. OU secondary: This young group has potential but potential won’t buy the groceries or help the Sooners get closer to the Promised Land. Optimistic fans can only hope that these young players continue to learn from their mistakes and the game experience that they are getting at such an early stage of their career will pay dividends in the future. Safeties can’t allow the opposition to run past them and the entire unit has to tackle better but both matters that are fixable. Nonetheless, allowing 789 yards passing and five TD’s in the last two games is unacceptable. KU will try the Sooner Secondary on for size early and often one has to assume.
4. Hopelessness: For much of former coach Charlie Weis tenure at KU, one got the feeling that the Jayhawks stepped on the gridiron with a sense of hopelessness. Interim Coach Clint Bowen has instilled a more competitive spirit in KU but the only way that they stay in the hunt Saturday is to take advantage of Sooner turnovers or major busts. KU needs to maintain some level of hope as they should be relaxed as they re playing for nothing but pride which Bowen seems to have provided his embattled squad. A fast start by the Sooners is something to watch for.
5. Sterling Shepherd: The Sooners are a different team when No. 3 is on the field even if he’s partially there to be a decoy. If Sterling isn’t 100 percent then obviously he shouldn’t play but if he’s good to go without a doubt he will make QB Thomas life a bit easier on No. 14’s first start on Owen Field. As has been said all season, what receivers are going to step up and make plays. My sense is that senior tight end, H-Back, and backup QB Blake Bell has more to give than we are seeing. At 6-foot-6 Bell is a matchup nightmare. Prediction: 2 TDs for No. 10 … perhaps one in the Belldozer. An aggressive, pursuing KU defense could create some opportunities for some big plays by OU via reverses and misdirection.
6. Defensive front seven: This group is due to create havoc and turnovers as that function of the defense feels past due. No Geno Grissom provides others with a chance to see what they’ve got in a Big 12 Conference game. I think that the front seven can be much more tenacious and aggressive and one would think that they could smell blood in the water on the out manned KU squad who won’t back down from OU. Again, Kansas has zero to lose and every thing to gain if they can upset the 25.5 point favorites at home … or even play OU closer than the experts predict.
7. Weather & attendance: Curious to see if the predicted rain will keep many fans away from the 11 am kickoff. If you’re not using your tickets make sure that someone does. For those that are there, emotionally invest in the Sooners as they need to finish the year with three wins and two of those games are at home where the Sooners should be embraced and uplifted by their the Sooner Nation. Loyal fans will be there come rain, hell or high water. Thunderstorms and a wind of 17 mph from the South could make for an interesting day.
I like the Sooners to win this game, especially if they get off to a fast start where it could then get ugly. However, this Sooner team has had some perplexing first quarters/halves plus the weather conditions may play a factor especially in the turnover category. With all that said, laying 25.5 during thunderstorms with a new QB and a litany of injuries seems a bit much. I’ve been hitting the spread the past few weeks but it won’t hurt my feelings to be wrong this Saturday morning. A blow out win and two weeks to prepare for Bedlam isn’t a bad scenario. If OU runs the ball a great deal the game, and why wouldn’t they, the contest will become shorter, which also affects the Vegas odds.
Prediction: KU +25.5, Oklahoma 34, Kansas 17
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