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Sooners desperately need defensive turnabout

NORMAN, OK – NOVEMBER 10: Defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles #44 of the Oklahoma Sooners gestures to the crowd before the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on November 10, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State 48-47. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Kansas is perhaps the weakest team on the 2018 Oklahoma football schedule, but the Sooners would do well to get any notion of that out of their system fast.

It is true that the Jayhawks are just 3-7 this season and have won but two games in the Big 12 and only six overall in the last four seasons under head coach David Beaty, but Kansas is playing better this season than it has probably since Mark Mangino was fired in 2009.

The sixth-ranked Sooners, one win away from their 39th 10-win season, the most of any FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) team, have beaten the Jayhawks 75 out of the 108 times the two teams have played, including the last 13 in a row. The talent advantage is overwhelmingly with Oklahoma, but OU has lost to Kansas before as a highly ranked team and with the same talent disparity.

Twice as the country’s No. 2 team (1975 and 1984), the Sooners were beaten fairly soundly by an unranked Jayhawk squad. That says it all, and is more than enough reason to take Kansas and Saturday’s game in Norman seriously.

It would be easy for Oklahoma to suffer a letdown, coming off a highly emotional and closely contested rivalry game last weekend against Oklahoma State, and get caught looking ahead to its biggest game of the season next weekend at West Virginia.

If anything, the Sooners need to approach the game with Kansas as an important tune-up before laying it all on the line against Big 12 co-leader West Virginia.

OU has the disconcerting distinction of featuring the nation’s No. 1 offense, led by Heisman-hopeful quarterback Kyler Murray, and one of college football’s most maligned defenses. The Sooners are allowing opponents 416 yards of offense and 29.8 points a game. That is not a stat line that typically wins championships, of the league variety or any other.

Lincoln Riley’s team will have an opportunity to improve upon those defensive numbers against a Kansas offense that ranks 114th in the nation. This is where the tune-up part comes in. A strong outing against Kansas will help give the Sooner defensive unit  momentum and some much-needed confidence before they face their toughest and most important challenge of the season.

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