Things are starting to shape up for what could be a very special year for Oklahoma football. The Sooners, who moved into the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday and have the favorite for the Heisman Trophy in quarterback Baker Mayfield, seem to be peaking at the right time as they head to struggling Kansas on Saturday.
“We’re getting better and better,” Mayfield said after the Sooners cruised past TCU, 38-20, last Saturday. “We’re getting better at the right time of the year. That’s pretty scary for other teams right now.” The Sooners can clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title with a victory over the Jayhawks, who have lost 12 straight to Oklahoma including 56-3 last year in Norman. Oklahoma hosts West Virginia in its Big 12 finale next week and then must win the Big 12 Championship Game in Arlington, Tex., on Dec. 2 to guarantee its spot in the four-team CFP field and a shot at an eighth national championship. “We haven’t won the Big 12 yet,” Mayfield said. “(Kansas is) a Big 12 opponent that’s in the way of our goals so it shouldn’t take any extra motivation. We have to have the same mindset no matter who we’re playing against. That’s kind of been our focus all year — it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We have to rise to the occasion and play well, week-in and week-out.”
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Oklahoma -37
ABOUT OKLAHOMA (9-1, 6-1 Big 12): Mayfield barely worked up a sweat against a TCU defense that leads the Big 12 in total defense (309 yards per game) and is ranked among the best in the nation, leading the Sooners on touchdown drives of 79, 80, 69, 75, and 80 yards as well as a field goal, all in the first half, while completing 15-of-21 passes for 299 yards. As good as Mayfield was — he finished 18-of-27 for 333 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and also rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries — it was backfield mate Rodney Anderson who was named Big 12 Player of the Week after finishing with 290 total yards (151 rushing) and four touchdowns. The defense, led by defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (8.0 sacks, 16 tackles for loss) has struggled defending the pass (108th nationally) but held TCU’s high powered offense to just 14 points over the first three quarters.
ABOUT KANSAS (1-9, 0-7): The Jayhawks have lost nine straight since a 38-16 victory over Southwest Missouri to open the season and are in danger of finishing winless in Big 12 play for the second straight year. Sophomore Carter Stanley has started the last three games at quarterback and is coming off a respectable 268-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 42-27 loss at Texas while sophomore Khalil Herbert averages a team-best 68.9 yards rushing and has scored four touchdowns. The defense, which ranks 109th nationally in total defense (456.2 yards) and 114th in scoring defense (37.3 points), is led by linebacker Joe Dineen who leads the nation with an average of 8.0 solo tackles per game and also leads the Big 12 with averages of 11.9 total tackles and 2.1 tackles for loss per contest.
1. The Sooners have a 15-game true road winning streak which is the longest active streak in the nation, one game ahead of Alabama (14).
2. Oklahoma have gained at least 500 yards of total offense in each of its last eight games, the nation’s longest streak and tied for the fifth-longest in the FBS over the last 10 years.
3. The Sooners rank No. 1 in the nation in passing offense with an average of 388.8 yards per game.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 56, Kansas 17