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State of the Sooners: Week 12 vs. Kansas

NORMAN, Okla. — Coming off of a wild outing against Oklahoma State, the Sooners take on Kansas to potentially calm things down. However, this could be one of the most important weeks of the season. There are several issues the Sooners have to address, and this is the perfect week to do so. With the Big 12’s bottom dweller coming to town, now is the time to make any adjustments before the final stretch.

Health:

There’s plenty to go over here, so bear with it. Kahlil Haughton is banged up, so the secondary will have to continue without a starter. Alex Dalton is now out for the season with his third career ACL injury, and Lincoln Riley said after Bedlam that it was unknown who his backup center was. Depth on the offensive line isn’t the only concern, because right now the Sooners have two available running backs. T.J. Pledger is dealing with a hip injury, and he’s questionable to return against Kansas. Finally, Jalen Redmond had a reoccurrence of his earlier situation, so he is officially done for the year. The shred of good news, however, is that Bookie is back after missing some time. With the thin secondary situation, he’s having to return to safety, but Oklahoma is just glad to have him back on the field. Overall, the team depth is certainly a concern midway through November, but now is the time to find the guys that are going to step up.

Outlook:

That’s exactly what the Sooners are tasked with at this point of the season. There’s two major issues that the Sooners must tackle this week: Defensive improvement and depth rebuilding. This team knows the concerns that surround them. Who would have thought that Taylor Cornelius would waltz onto Owen Field and throw for over 500 yards? The answer is no one, especially the OU defense. Does that have something to do with injury issues? Maybe. Does that have a lot to do with a disappointing effort from the defense? Certainly. Guys like Curtis Bolton admitted there’s still a lot of change that has to take place. That change can occur against Kansas, a game that the Sooners know they must dominate. Sure, a win against Kansas doesn’t do much for a resume, but it’s a win that cannot be in question. With several key players down and confidence potentially in question, this Saturday is a chance to get back on track. A dominant performance is not only what’s expected, it’s needed. This will be a game that can reestablish the psyche of the Sooner defense, and can provide players with an opportunity to fill new roles. There’s no better time than right now to take a breath and beat the crap out of someone before things get testy again. On top of that, if any changes are going to be made, they need to be made right now. The Sooners will not see an opportunity like this again, but for now, they have a chance to reshape the direction of their season.

Matchup:

I know, this is probably the section of the article you’re least interested in. It’s Kansas! What is there to talk about? Turns out, especially according to Riley, there’s plenty that can be addressed. On offense, the Jayhawks are lead by Steven Sims Jr., the stud receiver that always finds the football. In the backfield, Khalil Herbert and Pooka Williams Jr. will see most of the carries with Dom Williams working in occasionally. The key to offensive success for Kansas is Peyton Bender. The junior college transfer lost his starting job last season, but he’s been given a second chance. If he’s on, the Jayhawks can actually provide some offense. If he’s off, however, there’s nothing that Kansas can do to stay alive. No matter the version of Bender that shows up on Saturday, applying pressure will be key. Defensively, the Jayhawks are led by Joe Dineen Jr., one of the best linebackers in the Big 12. If you’re not entirely familiar with him, he’s the guy that didn’t shake Baker Mayfield’s hand! We all remember how that turned out, so I’m sure he’ll want to take a different approach during pregame. He likely won’t change his in-game approach, however, as he’s currently the Big 12’s leading tackler. Trying to deceive him won’t be easy, but the talent around him has to step up. The loss of Dorance Armstrong Jr. is hurting this squad, and a lack of pass rush is evident. With the way the Sooners’ offensive line is playing, Kyler Murray should expect a field day.

When you look at this game face value, it’s pretty simple. Oklahoma is better than Kansas, period. However, there’s more meaning to this weekend’s matchup than the plain eye can see. Sure they’re better than Kansas, but the Sooners don’t just have to be better than the Jayhawks. At this point of the season, the Sooners have to be better versions of themselves. If they do not use this game as an opportunity to improve and adapt, they will not reach the goals they’ve set forth.

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