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Behind Enemy Lines: Oklahoma Sooners

We preview today’s game with our SB Nation sister-site, Crimson & Cream Machine

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas Jayhawks “welcome” the Oklahoma Sooners into town, hoping to do something that can be seen as a positive step forward. So just how bad is this game going to be? To help answer that, I reached out to Jack Shields over at Crimson & Cream Machine, the SB Nation site that covers OU. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

RCT: So far Jalen Hurts has been even more impressive than Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in this Oklahoma offense. Is he really that great of a QB, or is he just benefitting from a phenomenal Lincoln Riley system?

CCM: Lincoln Riley’s biggest strength as a coach is arguably his ability to adjust his offense to fit his personnel from year to year, as he’s great at accentuating his quarterback’s strengths and hiding his weaknesses. That’s what’s happening here with Jalen Hurts. To answer your question it’s a little bit of both.

Jalen Hurts doesn’t have the arm talent of his predecessors. That much is abundantly clear. However, he certainly isn’t what one would call deficient in that area. He’s absolutely good enough to find his open receivers, which are a common sight. He also brings the threat of a high-volume runner to the table, which just gives defensive coordinators more to think about when attempting to plan for this offense. Riley is able to use that threat to concoct plays we haven’t seen him call in the past. This offense is even more dynamic than the ones we’ve seen over the past few years for that exact reason, which is scary.

RCT: The biggest question coming into the season for the offense was the offensive line. The offense hasn’t missed a beat at all so far. Is that because the offensive line issues were overblown, or have the Sooners just not faced a defense that might expose that weakness?

CCM: The offensive line is far from a well-oiled machine at this point, so it’s partially the latter. However, the manner in which Lincoln Riley has used Hurts as a runner has sort of covered up some of those deficiencies, as well.

They’re struggling to get consistent performances from anyone not named Creed Humphrey, and they’ve also been dealing with injuries. Left tackle Erik Swenson appears to be bothered by has shoulder, which seems to have hindered his performance. Left tackle Marquis Hayes missed a game due to injury, and Adrian Ealy missed the Texas Tech game (and could miss the Kansas) game with his own injury issue. It’s hard for the unit to build chemistry when this kind of thing is happening. Luckily, OU has highly-accomplished co-OC/O-Line coach Bill Bedenbaugh leading a very promising group of guys, so there’s hope that this unit can be really good in time for the home stretch.

RCT: The defense was a huge problem last year, with Kansas exposing them by score 40 points in Norman last year. Any concern that this defense will be similarly exposed?

CCM: I don’t think so, and I’m so relieved to be able to say that. The defense really has come a long way under first-year DC Alex Grinch, who has implemented a one-gap scheme and is getting this group of guys back to the basics. The front seven is a talented and deep group that has been able to consistently apply pressure for the first time in years. There’s still work to be done in the secondary, but overall, the group is miles ahead of where it was at the end of last season.

RCT: If Kansas is somehow about to pull off the upset, what would have to happen in the game?

CCM:

  • Oklahoma would have to come out of the game sleepwalking
  • All three of the scholarship quarterbacks would have to go down with injuries
  • Todd Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe would have to walk out of that tunnel
  • Mike Stoops would have to drive to Lawrence and take control of the OU defense
  • 30 OU players would have to be arrested at The Hawk the evening prior to the game

RCT: Prediction Time! How does the game turn out? Can Kansas cover the spread?

CCM: I actually think Kansas beats the 33-point spread in this one. Back-ups will be out there in the second half, and the team will likely be looking ahead to Texas by that point. A backdoor cover seems very likely. I’ll go 55-24 Oklahoma.

A big thanks to Jack for helping us out. Don’t forget to check out the questions that Fetch answered for him over on CCM.