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Oklahoma GameDay: X-Factors

The SI Sooners staff takes a look at what areas of the game Oklahoma needs to take care of this weekend against the Kansas Jayhawks.

John Hoover: Spencer Rattler

Oklahoma backup quarterbacks usually get a chance to shine against Kansas. This time, that’s Spencer Rattler’s role. Rattler, who’s reportedly endured health issues this week, should be OK to go when Lincoln Riley decides Kansas has seen enough of Caleb Williams. Rattler, who began the season as the Heisman betting favorite and projected No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, isn’t much of a drop-off. If Williams comes out of the game with 48 points on the scoreboard, it’ll be Rattler who gives the Sooners a chance to get quickly into the 60s.

Ryan Chapman: Focus

The Oklahoma Sooners are in no danger of losing to the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday, but it will be a test of OU’s mental makeup. Lincoln Riley said on Tuesday that he lessened the physical load on the team this past Monday, taking them through mental walkthroughs to allow the team to heal up. While he showed great trust in his team to handle that on Monday, Riley also said it would require the team to be completely locked in the rest of the week to get the most out of practice. This is the same team who struggle to maintain focus in the second half against Tulane in the season opener. “A lot of the guys on the team will look at the schedule and who we’re playing and that will determine their energy level for that game or that week or so,” defensive captain Isaiah Thomas said after the Tulane game. Saturday will be an opportunity to prove the team has taken steps in the mental aspect of the game. The Sooners need to put a clean game on tape, mostly devoid of penalties, turnovers, assignment mishaps on the offensive line and busts in the secondary. Oklahoma could sleepwalk through the contest and still blow out the Jayhawks, but if they’re truly to turn it on during the back half of this season and contend for a National Championship, they need to come out sharp and dominate every aspect of the game from the opening kickoff until about the middle of the third quarter when the coaching staff empties the benches.

Josh Callaway: Blitzing the Linebackers

Oklahoma’s secondary is thin due to injuries and the defensive line has struggled to get a consistent pass rush without the also-injured Jalen Redmond. This seems like the perfect time for Alex Grinch to start dialing up some blitz packages with the plethora of talented linebackers on the team. So far this year, Grinch has been hesitant to bring the house. Perhaps that’ll change on Saturday against a Kansas team that actually does a good job of protecting their quarterback. Sending guys like David Ugwoegbu, Brian Asamoah, DaShaun White and Danny Stutsman, among others, into the backfield could produce some really big plays to get the mojo back to the Sooners defense after a couple of up and down weeks. 

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