Friday Preview: Defense Needed against High-Flying Sooners

Still seeking their first conference win, the Jayhawks head to Norman to take on the Oklahoma Sooners, considered by many to be the best team in the Big 12.

When sports fans think Big 12 football, they think big plays, fast offenses, and lots of touchdowns. For the Kansas Jayhawks this season, that’s only been true on one end of the field. An 0-4 start in conference play, with 40+ points allowed 3 times, does not bode well for a matchup Saturday against Oklahoma. For Kansas to be competitive against the Sooners, it is going to have to find a way to prevent the big plays its defense has consistently allowed and prevent a repeat of what happened the last time these two teams met.

November 22, 2014 is a day most Jayhawk football fans won’t want to remember. Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine, then a freshman, ran for an FBS-record 429 yards and five touchdowns in the Sooners’ 44-7 rout. With Perine suffering a hamstring injury a couple weeks ago that will cause him to miss this game, Jayhawk fans might think that allows for a sigh of relief, but not so fast. North California native Joe Mixon might be just as talented, and he comes off a win over Texas Tech where he had 377 all-purpose yards. In the last two weeks, Kansas’ defense has allowed 230 and 246 rushing yards, and for the season, its rush defense ranks 92nd out of 128 teams in college football. Mixon making history isn’t out of the question.

The bad news for the Jayhawks is that even if the run defense can hold firm, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield is more than capable of executing the offense through the air. Last year against Kansas, he completed 27 of 32 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns in a 62-7 win. He’s also coming into Saturday’s game off of a record-setting seven TD performance against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

If Kansas wants to find a blueprint to victory, perhaps it should look at its one competitive conference game this season, a one-point loss to TCU back on October 8th. KU’s defense was able to force TCU QB Kenny Hill into four turnovers, and if it weren’t for some late missed field goal attempts, Kansas would have come away with a victory. In both of Oklahoma’s losses this season, albeit to powerhouses Ohio State and Houston, the Sooners have lost the turnover battle. Kansas’ hopes may rest on the big swings and changes of field position that forcing turnovers provides. Otherwise, it might be another long day for the Jayhawks defense – and the fanbase.