As you no doubt noticed in yesterday's post, there is reason to believe Kansas could lose this game. But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is what you get today.
1. Pass coverage: Not KU's; theirs still remains very much a concern. But OU is very much in the same boat, they're just able to hide it better at times. We came into the year thinking the OU back seven was suspect. It took 6 games for the prediction to show up, but it did so in a very big way.
Will it help? Absolutely. Unlike Kansas, the Sooners can generate a pass rush to hide their secondary at times. But what they can't do is hide their linebackers. You won't find many groups better at stuffing the run, but good at pass coverage they are not. If Shipley and Cosby were any indication, both Fields and Meier (if healthy) should be a match-up nightmare for the Sooners. Now we just need to give Todd some space to get them the ball.
2. Clock management: As Texas and TCU have shown, OU's running game is not working very well. Shocking as it seems to me, their gigantic linemen aren't generating much of a push and have basically just become a stationary wall of pass blockers (perhaps you should consider your personnel before you go to a no-huddle Stoopsie). Despite having a struggling running game of their own, Kansas is actually 14th nationally in TOP. OU is 71st.
Will it help? It might not even happen, but if it does, it certainly can't hurt. I think we all know that OU is going to put up some points Saturday. I don't have a clue how KU can defend Gresham. And between Iglesias and Manny Johnson, someone is bound to have a big day. And that's all assuming their running backs stay bottled up (no easy task, despite their recent struggles). So obviously the best defense here is to keep this offense off the field. If Todd can pick them apart with short routes and they can establish a semblance of a running game, they've got a chance to keep things close.
3. Special teams: Rarely does an upset take place where the underdog doesn't get some points from either the defense or the special teams. Assuming Sammie B takes care of the ball, KU is going to need to get something out of their return games. Fortunately, Oklahoma is 109th nationally allowing over 25 yards per KO return with 2 TDs sprinkled in.
Will it help? Unfortunately, KU is currently last in the nation in KO return yardage. But Marcus Herford wasn't a preseason All-American for nothing after averaging over 25 yards each of the last two seasons. Mangino says there will be some major changes made here in personnel and possible schematically. If they can find something and catch the Sooners off guard to steal some momentum, you can't underestimate the effect that could have (I should note that I consider Shipley's return the single biggest play of that game).
4. Todd Reesing: I told you he was staying in this spot until proven otherwise. And he did absolutely nothing last week to lose his place here. I don't think there's any denying that ball security was one of the main reasons Kansas started last season 11-0 and did not lose a game on the road. The main catalyst to that was Todd, who, after KSU, did not turn it over on trips to Boulder, College Station and Stillwater.
Will it help? If it doesn't, the Hawks are in some serious trouble. In order to stay in this game, they're going to need Todd to not only protect the ball at all costs, but also find a way to make plays and keep up with the high scoring OU offense. No easy task. And he's going to need a lot of help to get it done. But especially against a team with a pass rush, there's no one I'd rather have back there than Hot Toddy.
5. "Nobody believed in us:" You can't really say the Hawks are playing with house money here, because for the time being they control their own destiny with how far they go this season. But given that they opened as 18 point dogs, it's pretty safe to say that not too many people outside of their locker room think they're on their way to 6-1.
Will it help? Of course. If OU has any hope of playing for the league or national championship they can't afford to lose again, let alone within the confines of their own stadium. So every bit of the pressure is on them to come out and make a statement. For a whole lot of reasons this does not bode well for KU. But on the other hand, they're very comfortable in the underdog role and if they can keep it close, OU will definitely start to feel some added anxiety.
A long story short, there are some definite advantages here and some weaknesses that KU can exploit. Unfortunately, I just don't see how either the OL or DL can hold up an entire four quarters against the Sooners. The execution from quarterback and personnel at WR are there to do exactly what Texas did in the passing game. Unfortunately, Texas also dominated in the run game and both their OL and DL completely wore down OU's units. Kansas will not have these advantages, so they'll need to come up with some extra points somewhere (something Texas also did) in order to keep things close. We've yet to see the Hawks play a great game from beginning to end. Saturday would be a good time to start.