3 Questions: Oklahoma at Kansas
1. How will Oklahoma's replacement quarterback fare?
Not many players have played as well over the past two-plus seasons as Oklahoma's junior quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford posted a passer efficiency rating better than 175 in each of his first two seasons, while guiding the Sooners to a 24-4 record.
Given Bradford's extraordinary production, his absence from this weekend's game at Kansas would seem to be a substantial loss for Oklahoma.
The Bradford-less Sooners haven't played like Big 12 Conference champions this season, but freshman quarterback Landry Jones hasn't been the sole culprit. In fact, Jones has played better than your run-of-the-mill freshman quarterback.
Jones, a 6-foot-4, 216-pound New Mexico native famous for his mustache, is ranked sixth in the conference in passer efficiency and has tossed 11 touchdowns and just five interceptions this year.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Oct/23/cs_landry_jones_bw.jpg Freshman quarterback Landry Jones will be the Sooners' mustachioed maestro this weekend at KU
The Sooners' real problem has been in their running game. In the 2008 season, Oklahoma averaged a stellar 4.7 yards per carry. This season, that mark is down to a below-average 3.9 per carry.
Two games into the Big 12 season, Kansas has proven vulnerable no matter how questionable the opposing quarterback. Iowa State's Austen Arnaud posted his second-best completion percentage of the season at KU. Colorado's Tyler Hansen celebrated his first career start by doing just enough scrambling and improvising to lead the Buffaloes to a 34-30 victory.
KU has struggled with less productive quarterbacks than Jones already this season. With a stable of capable skill players in tow, Oklahoma's backup could be primed for a big day.
2. Will DeMarco Murray play at 100 percent?
Oklahoma's running game hasn't been as fantastic as in years past, probably due to the loss of two offensive linemen in April's NFL Draft. But there is no denying Oklahoma's junior running back DeMarco Murray is among the conference's best.
The 214-pound Las Vegas native averaged more than 5.5 yards per rush in his first two seasons, and is gaining 4.9 per carry this season.
According to The Tulsa World, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Murray's status heading into Saturday's game was still up in the air. The running back injured his ankle last Saturday during the Sooners' loss against Texas.
Not only is Murray the conference's ninth-leading rusher, he is averaging more than 40 receiving yards per game.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Oct/23/murray.jpg Junior running back DeMarco Murray makes up half of Oklahoma's two-pronged backfield threat.
Oklahoma won't be helpless without Murray — senior running back Chris Brown is averaging 4.3 yards per rush, with more carries than Murray — but without its starting tight end (Jermaine Gresham, knee), quarterback (Sam Bradford, shoulder), and potentially running back (Murray, ankle), the KU defense could have a much-needed advantage.
3. Will KU's retooled defense build off of last week's successes?
Despite suffering an embarrassing loss, KU's new-look defense showed some promise in the Jayhawks' 34-30 slip-up at Colorado.
KU head coach Mark Mangino and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, spooked by their team's poor showing in a victory against Iowa State, moved players from position to position and unit to unit in the week before the Colorado contest.
The result wasn't too shabby.
KU gave up 34 points, but that wasn't completely the fault of the defense. In the second quarter, Colorado's average starting field position was the KU 49-yard line. The Buffaloes started two drives inside the Jayhawks' five-yard line, accounting for 14 Colorado points.
True freshman D.J. Beshears played most of the snaps at cornerback in place of sophomore Daymond Patterson. Three others — freshman safety Bradley McDougald, freshman defensive tackle John Williams and linebacker Angus Quigley — moved from offense to defense and earned positive reviews from coaches.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Oct/23/beshears.jpg Freshman cornerback D.J. Beshears made a splash last weekend in his first substantial game action.
If the Jayhawks' new defenders improve with an additional week of practice, KU could swing an upset on Saturday. If KU plays like it did against Iowa State, Landry Jones could look Sam Bradford-esque.