In a conference where parity has meant that just about any game is up for grabs, one Big 12 team had been surprisingly consistent, and seemed like a lock to at least compete for a conference title. Thanks to injuries and standard Big 12 weirdness, Oklahoma State now finds themselves in the scrum with the rest of the commoners.
OSU started the year 5-0. They didn’t do anything magical in the non-conference schedule, but they looked like a solid team. Then they kicked off Big 12 play by beating Baylor in Waco (at that time viewed as a bigger accomplishment than it would be now), and beat an up-and-down Texas Tech squad by 10. Their first loss of the season came at the hands of TCU, but the Horned Frogs have been winning track meets against just about anyone they play, so it didn’t hurt perception of the Cowboys too badly, especially when just a week later they handed Texas their 3rd loss of the season. Then last week’s game in Manhattan happened. Injuries, specifically at the quarterback position with Spencer Sanders, who left the game after an apparent 4th quarter shoulder injury. Oklahoma State looked nothing like the Top 10 team they had been just weeks before, getting the doors blown off by a 48-0 final score.
So where does that leave Oklahoma State coming into Saturday’s matchup in Lawrence? It’s hard to say. Sanders, according to coach Mike Gundy, mostly rested in place of normal practice activities this week, but there is hope from OSU that he could be good to go. Obviously that would be a big help to team trying to figure out where they are in the conference race after last week’s disaster. If Sanders can’t go, coach’s kid Gunnar Gundy appears to be the man waiting in the wings. Gunnar has only thrown 27 career passes with two interceptions, so as Kansas fans, it should be clear who would be the more favorable option in the Jayhawks’ eyes.
It would appear that bettors seem to think Oklahoma’s injury problems, at QB and elsewhere, are likely more significant than KU’s coming into the game. With OSU at full strength, they would likely be favored by around a touchdown, even at Memorial Stadium (or The Booth, or whatever). The fact that several sports books have Kansas as a 1 point favorite right now speaks volumes as to the perception of Sanders’ and OSU’s health coming into this game against a Kansas squad that just had a bye week to try and get healthy. There’s also some hope that Jalon Daniels will return as the Kansas signal caller this week, though Lance Leipold has not been at all forthcoming with information about Daniels’ availability. It does sound as though Daniels has been dressing out and practicing, though whether he’s a full participant yet we don’t know. If he can’t go, Jason Bean, who has been erratic but at times very effective, will get his third consecutive start.
This is a tough one. If OSU was at full health, I would pick them without hesitation. But in a scenario where we don’t know if one, both, or neither team will have their QB1, it’s hard to feel like you’re making an informed prediction. Oklahoma State has injury problems elsewhere, which also contribute to the swing in the point spread, but KU has also multiple banged up players, such as Cobee Bryant, Kenny Logan, and Lonnie Phelps. The latter two seem like locks to play, but there has been very little information going around about Bryant, who appeared to suffer a major leg injury against Baylor, only to have Leipold insist he’s questionable, and not out, for this week’s game. That could be typical college football injury gamesmanship, but it does seem to suggest that Bryant could be on a similar timeline as Daniels, which is to say “maybe he’ll be back soon I hope?”
Anyway, Oklahoma State will likely be on a mission after one of the most humiliating beatings of the Gundy era last week. Kansas will hopefully be closer to full health, but as long as it’s more likely than not that we’ll see Bean behind center, I’m too worried about turnovers and mistakes. Fortunately, OSU is much better offensively than they are defensively, and if you take away their starting QB, it’s impossible to count Kansas out. After two paragraphs of going back and forth, I’ll take Oklahoma State in a very close, and likely high scoring, game.
Oklahoma State 34, Kansas 30