No. 16 Oklahoma hosts Kansas
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops found himself playing defense earlier this week, something his team has failed to do miserably at times this season.
The 16th-ranked Sooners (5-2, 4-0 Big 12), who host Kansas (1-6, 0-4) in Big 12 play on Saturday night, come in off a video-game like 66-59 victory over Texas Tech that saw OU allow 854 total yards, including an astonishing 734 through the air. That's more than a lot Sooner defenses would yield in a month not too far back.
Oklahoma ranks 127th out of 128 FBS team in pass defense allowing an average of 342.6 yards per game. Only Arizona State (386.1) is worse. The Sooners are also allowing 36.7 points per game, just slightly better than the last place Jayhawks (36.9).
Not surprisingly, Stoops defended his defensive coordinator. That would be his brother, Mike.
"It's the same coordinator that also we led the league in every defensive category a year ago and made it to the final four," he said. "We're not running a new defense. He didn't bring in something different. It's the same defense. If it's worked before, it'll work again, and I've got confidence in it. And I'm also part of what we're doing."
Stoops spread the blame around even more, mentioning each of his defensive assistants by name.
"It's all of us, too. It isn't just my brother and I," he said. "Didn't complete a sack, ball caught between the two linebackers, ball caught on a secondary guy. It's all of us together."
Luckily for Stoops and the Sooners, the next two games are against the Big 12's worst teams -- at home against Kansas on Saturday and at Iowa State on Nov. 3.
So this stretch could be a chance to work on things to get better or could give Oklahoma's defense a false sense of improvement.
Monday morning on the Big 12 coaches' media teleconference, a reporter asked Kansas coach David Beaty if seeing the OU defense give up so many yards and points gave him examples of areas where the Sooners might be vulnerable. He didn't bite, saying Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who finished with 819 yards of total offense (734 passing and 85 rushing) obliterating the old NCAA record of 751 set by Washington State's Connor Halliday in 2014, and the Red Raiders deserved more credit for their showing.
"That would've been a challenge for the Dallas Cowboys, I believe it," Beaty said. "(Mahomes) played his rear end off, he really did. He made some throws I've never seen before."
Beaty has his own problems to worry about. Kansas has dropped 16 consecutive Big 12 games and has lost 11 in a row to Oklahoma. The Sooners have outscored the Jayhawks by a combined 106-14 in the last two meetings.
After a 44-20 loss to Oklahoma State last week, Beaty announced that quarterback Montell Cozart would continue on as the starter, a role the junior earned at the start of the season before his erratic play led to the promotion of sophomore Ryan Willis.
Cozart completed 24 of 40 passes for 250 yards, all season-bests, with two interceptions and one touchdown as the Jayhawks trailed the Cowboys by just four points at halftime before Oklahoma State used a 27-7 second-half barrage to pull away.
"Montell, I thought, did a workman's job," Beaty said. "Neither one of those picks were actually his fault."
The Jayhawks have committed 25 turnovers this season, tops in the FBS, and are minus-13 in turnover margin. No matter how shaky Oklahoma's defense may be, that is the recipe for a serious butt-kicking against an explosive Sooners offense led by Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield at quarterback, running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Dede Westbrook.
Mayfield, who finished fourth in Heisman balloting a year ago, ranks sixth in the country with 23 passing touchdowns and 335.4 passing yards per game and leads the pass-happy Big 12 in pass efficiency (194.9), completion percentage (.714) and yards per completion (15.45). He threw a school-record seven touchdowns and finished with 545 passing yards last week in the wild win over Texas Tech.
Westbrook had nine catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns against the Red Raiders while Mixon finished with 377 all-purpose yards, the most by an FBS player this season and second most in OU history. He also registered a career-high 263 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns.