Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming Big 12 game in our Kansas vs. Oklahoma State preview and prediction.
2:30 p.m. October 3rd, Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Mike Golic)
Oklahoma State Radio: Cowboy Radio Network (Dave Hunziker)
Kansas Radio: Jayhawks Radio Network (Brian Hanni)
Spread: OSU (-20.5)
Fun Fact: OSU has won 10 straight games against the Jayhawks, as well as 15 of the past 16 in the series. OSU has won eight straight games in Lawrence, with the latest road loss coming in 1994.
RB Pooka Williams
Pooka Williams might be the best back in the Big 12 after Chuba Hubbard. He’s fast, elusive, quick in change of direction, and runs hard. He would be an absolute superstar if he were on a team with profile of an OU or a UT. Much like last season he will be asked to carry most of the load offensively and he faces a stout defense this week. The good news is the season is young and his legs are still fresh and while the Cowboys have teeth they did struggle to tackle West Virginia’s Leddie Brown last week.
RB Velton Gardner
Every Batman needs a Robin, and through two games Velton Gardner has been the Boy Wonder to Pooka William’s Dark Knight. As great as William’s is he can’t take every snap all season and stay effective. Running backs get hit a lot. The get tired and banged up. Enter Velton Gardner! So far this year he actually has more yards than Williams (151 to 143) on one fewer carries, and has a higher per carry average (6.0 to 5.5). If this tandem can keep up the production it will help the beleaguered quarterbacks immensely.
Kansas has played three quarterbacks so far this year and none have taken the reins as the clear cut guy. Les Miles probably needs to pull the trigger and pick one and stick with him, giving him all the practice reps. Oklahoma State’s defense has been the best in the conference so far but with Pooka Williams in the backfield drawing attention there should be opportunities to throw the ball. Quarterbacks need confidence and rhythm to be successful. Rotating series and having to worry about getting to hook for an off throw will only make their play shakier.
QB Spencer Sanders? Shane Illingworth?
Same question as last week: which one plays? Oklahoma State on paper can beat Kansas with Shane Illingworth, but Spencer Sanders is needed to give the season a shot at being special. He’s basically only played one series in what was supposed to be the warm up game turned nail-biter to start the season against Tulsa. The Jayhawks are the next easiest game on the slate followed by a bye week, and while rest would be good for Sanders’ ankle so would live game reps before the meat of the schedule starts.
LB Malcolm Rodriguez
Facing a run heavy attack this week should let Rodriguez have a great day. While the blitzing of his linebacker teammates Calvin Bundage and Amen Ogbongbemiga let them stack up impressive stats last week against West Virginia it should be Rodriguez’s time to shine against the run-heavy Jayhawks. As a two-time state champion wrestler in high school he doesn’t miss many tackles, and as a coverted safety he has to speed to get sideline to sideline. He’ll be needed to help keep Williams and Gardner from breaking off long runs.
DE Trace Ford
Only a true sophomore, Ford has future superstar written all over him. He lines up everywhere: in a three-point stance on the edge, and a stand-up rush end, outside linebacker, inside linebacker. Defense Coordinator Jim Knowles moves Ford around a lot in order to find the right matchups to cause chaos along the front lines. It works a lot of the time. Expect him to have an impact on this game, either through a sack fumble, a tipped interception, or just getting upfield enough to force those outside runs back into the teeth of the OSU defense.
Can Les Miles get Kansas going? Albiet a bit crazy, Miles is a good coach and is well liked enough to recruit talent to Kansas. Before winning a National Championship at LSU he preformed a miracle in Stillwater by breathing life into the Cowboys who had been a terrible program for their entire history save for a few years when they had a couple of guys named Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders running the ball. Only two games into his second season and the grumblings have already begun up in Lawerence. Losing to Baylor doesn’t carry the stigma it did a decade ago but getting whipped by Coastal Carolina does. The Jayhawk fans need to see improvement, and with the Cowboys having trouble offensively a good showing, at least keeping it close, would help calm everyone down.
Can Mike Gundy wake up his offense? Scoring has never been a problem in the Gundy tenure. The fans are used to seeing the Cowboys score 40 points in a loss because there defense couldn’t stop anyone. Through two games this season the defense has played great and the offense has limped along just enough to win the games. Losing two starting offensive linemen in preseason and then having two more get hurt in the opener causes issues. Add in an ankle sprain for your starting quarterback and a slump for your All-American running back and it gets worse. Oklahoma State needs Spencer Sanders back. They need Chuba Hubbard to shake off the rust and get back to 2019 form. Hubbard did seal the win against WVU with a brilliant run on 3rd and 21 after a brief benching due to a couple of fumbles so maybe that snapped him out of it. The Cowboy defense may prove to be the best in the Big 12 this season but they aren’t holding the OUs, UTs, and Techs to 14 points every week. They need to start to find their groove.
Oklahoma State: 34 Kansas: 17
I don’t think the OSU offense comes fully awake this week but I think they stir a little bit going into the bye week. I believe Spencer Sanders will play but the play calls will limit his running to protect his ankle, meaning maybe no called runs and a stern look if he scrambles too much. The Cowboy offensive line made a huge jump from week one to week two and I expect another leap this week. The one-two punch of Chuba Hubbard and backup L.D. Brown is going to be a problem for Kansas (and everyone else) as they are both speedsters who can house any run off a missed tackle. The Cowboy defense should be able to smother the Kansas attack and never really let this be a game, but I do feel like the Jayhawks cover the spread based on Mike Gundy’s new, slower paced offensive philosophy.
**Want to win a $25 gift card? Go sign up here and join our conversation! The best poster each week wins a gift card to your favorite establishment!**