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Oklahoma-Kansas: Three Keys to the Game

Unleash the Beast ... Spencer's Rifle ... Cry Havoc.

Unleash the Beast

Oklahoma’s offense has gotten right since Caleb Williams became the quarterback. In one start against TCU and the second half of the Texas game, he’s 34-of-48 (71 percent) for 507 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also run the football for 154 on just 13 carries (11.8 average).

The running game has improved, the deep ball has returned — Williams is the real deal.

Kansas, meanwhile, struggles on defense.

The Jayhawks rank 129th nationally (next-to-last) in scoring defense, 128th in rushing yards allowed, 81st in passing yards allowed, 126th in total defense, 130th in third down defense, and 128th in red zone defense.

The idea that Williams has suddenly entered the Heisman Trophy race halfway through the season seems preposterous. But perception is reality, and there’s already a movement afoot (ask Kirk Herbstreit or any number of national analysts) for Williams to become the first true freshman to win the trophy. Lincoln Riley’s track record for Heisman QBs is undeniable.

Might as well ride the wave and let Williams put up big numbers against Kansas.

Spencer’s Rifle

Lincoln Riley has an interesting dilemma with his new backup quarterback.

There’s every chance this game gets out of hand. The Sooners are a 38-point favorite and haven’t lost to KU since 1997 — before any of these players were born. OU leads the all-time series 78-27-6, including 37-15-4 in Lawrence. Last year in Norman, Oklahoma won 62-9 as KU scored a field goal on the last play of the first half and a touchdown on the last play of the game.

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So what to do with Spencer Rattler when the scoreboard becomes one-sided?

Does Rattler get mop-up duty like any other backup? Does he get a series or two before Williams puts the game away? And when (if) he does come in in a blowout, does Riley let Rattler run the full offense? Does he let his backup QB use his powerful arm against the overmatched Jayhawks — and likely continue to run up the score?

Pouring it on a hapless opponent is not Riley’s MO. But having a backup like Rattler — and keeping him involved, engaged and focused for the stretch run — probably needs to be part of the big picture.

Cry Havoc

Oklahoma’s secondary is under siege — not from the Jayhawks’ passing game, but from a scourge of injuries.

That means more of true freshman Latrell McCutchin, true freshman Billy Bowman, true freshman Jordan Mukes, career backup Justin Broiles, Tennessee transfer Key Lawrence, redshirt freshman Bryson Washington, sophomore Joshua Eaton and struggling junior Jaden Davis — as well as steady senior Pat Fields — need help.

That help needs to be in the form of more pressure from the linebacker corps and more disruption from the defensive line.

Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said the Sooners have added more blitzes, tried more movement up front, changed coverages and more over the last three games. The only real sustained period of production during that time came in the second half of the Texas game.

The bottom line is the defensive front — so impactful and disruptive over the first four games as Oklahoma’s defense looked championship-worthy — needs to elevate its play against Kansas so the secondary isn’t so stressed.