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Oklahoma Football: Previewing the Sooners and Kansas

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

After righting the ship somewhat last week against Texas Tech, the Sooners take on Kansas at home on Saturday. Here's a preview of the game.

Three questions for Oklahoma

1. Will the Sooners call a conservative offensive game plan for Cody Thomas?

Last week, the Sooners allowed Cody Thomas to throw the ball 17 times in the first half, resulting in three interceptions and a whole lot of head scratching. Coaches cited being “behind the chains” as the reason behind that, but that's another rant. When the Sooners pounded the ball on Texas Tech's pitiful run defense, they didn't have to throw in the second half. Kansas poses a much stiffer test on defense than the Red Raiders, particularly on the ground. The Sooners won't be able to do anything it wants unless it executes. Thomas should be better in his second start and what could be an audition for the starting job against Oklahoma State in two weeks. Here's betting he will throw the ball more than three times in the second half and won't throw three interceptions.

2. Can the defense build on a positive second half in Lubbock?

The Sooners buckled down after falling into a 21-7 hole early in the third quarter against Texas Tech. OU forced three punts and a field goal after the touchdown drive that opened the half. It may not seem like much, but the secondary has been torched so often this season, any positive is something to build on. When the Sooners needed stops the most, they got them, putting the offense in good position to plow through Texas Tech on the ground and finish the game. Kansas has been playing with a lot of confidence the past few weeks, so it's not like the defense will be facing chopped liver. This is a great chance for the defense to build more confidence for the rest of the year and the future.

3. What will the crowd look like?

Let's see here. Three losses already for the Sooners in what has been a very disappointing season. Kansas in town. Another 11 a.m. kickoff. Lots of rain in the forecast. All those factors are coming together on Saturday, and even with the Sooners coming off a win, the crowd at Memorial Stadium is probably going to be pretty thin. Oklahoma will probably come up with some way to spin it as a sell-out, but if there are more than 70,000 actual people in the seats, I'll be surprised. But then again, OU fans are really loyal, despite their constant grumblings about the play on the field. They could surprise and show up once more.

Three players to watch for Kansas

1. QB Michael Cummings- 58 comp. %, 1,492 yards, seven touchdowns, 3 interceptions

Cummings has given the Kansas offense a new look since taking over for Montell Cozart midway through the season. The coaching change from Charlie Weis to Clint Bowen has also been a positive thing for Cummings, who looks like a completely different quarterback than he was a year ago. He has some weapons around him, so the OU defense will be tested.

2. LB Ben Heeney- 112 tackles, 10 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF

Henney is one of the best players no one talks about, probably in the entire country. He's easily one of the best linebackers in the Big 12 and the Sooners would be wise to always put a helmet on him, especially if OU wants to have any sort of success running the football on Saturday.

3. RB/WR Tony Pierson- 57 carries, 320 yards, 19 catches, 185 yards, three total touchdowns

Pierson is a terrific playmaker with tons of speed. It'd be impossible for Kansas to get him the ball too often, but surprisingly, getting him the ball consistently has been a problem over the years despite his clear play-making ability. Kansas has several good players at the skill positions on offense so if the Sooners aren't careful, they could lose track of Pierson, a terrible idea.

Key matchup: Oklahoma corners vs. Kansas wide receivers

With Michael Cummings improving and Kansas boasting a pretty good wide receiver group, the OU corners are going to be tested once again. Freshman Jordan Thomas will start for the injured Julian Wilson for the second straight game. Thomas was very good against Texas Tech overall, but still had a few busts indicative of his standing as a freshman. Oklahoma's corners are good enough to be able to lock down the Kansas wide receivers, but it will still be a challenge. Pressure from the defensive line will help, but it's time the secondary started playing up to its potential once again.

Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Kansas 17

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