Friday Preview: Oklahoma State comes to Lawrence

 

Kansas hosts Oklahoma State this week, and the Cowboys are 24.5-point favorites. The Jayhawks are doing what they do nearly every college football season, struggling mightily and getting their fans amped up for basketball. Kansas has a record of 1-5 at the halfway point of the season.

For the Oklahoma State Cowboys, things have been much better. They have a 4-2 record, and it would have been 5-1 if the officials hadn’t blown a call in their ugly loss to Central Michigan. Oklahoma State is coming off a bye week, and it has to be drooling at the prospect of facing a KU team that lost 49-7 to Baylor last week.

Kansas Turnover Issues

One of the biggest reasons that the Jayhawks are struggling so mightily is that they cannot hold onto the football. Against Baylor last week, the KU offense had four turnovers in the first 31 minutes of the game. On the year, they have turned the ball over 22 times to lead the nation in giveaways. That is a troubling statistic since Oklahoma State has forced 13 turnovers coming into this game. If Kansas cannot get its turnover issues under control against Oklahoma State, the game will likely be a blowout win for the Cowboys.

Key Matchups

Mason Rudolph vs. the KU Defense

The Jayhawks will have to contain Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph if they have any shot at winning. That is easier said than done. Rudolph has thrown for more than 2,000 yards through six games. Much of that yardage has been gained with wide receiver James Washington. He averages 20 yards a reception and is second in the Big 12 with 731 yards receiving.

Ryan Willis vs. the OSU Secondary

If KU wants to make this game competitive, they will need a big day from their quarterback Willis. The Overland Park native was awful last week against Baylor, throwing for just 89 yards to go along with three interceptions. The Jayhawks need him to be much better against the Cowboys. If he can step up his game, Kansas can definitely score against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have given up at least 30 points to every FBS school they have faced.

Special Teams

One of the biggest edges that Oklahoma State has is on special teams. The Cowboys have blocked four punts this year. They average 13.8 yards on punt returns, but they have only given up 26 return yards on punts. They have a net punting average of more than 40 yards thanks to punter Zack Sinor.

This game could be a disastrous blowout victory for Oklahoma State, but Kansas could make it a game if they play like they did in a tight 24-23 loss to TCU earlier this season. There should be plenty of scoring, making it a fun game to watch.

Steven Callahan is a contributor for Rock Chalk Blog every Friday. View his archive here.