Oklahoma State and Kansas both look to get back into the win column and start November off on a positive note when the Big 12 teams meet in Lawrence on Saturday afternoon.
The Cowboys (6-2, 3-2 Big 12) didn't get anything done last Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas, as Kansas State trounced them 48-0. Oklahoma State fell behind 35-0 in the first half, and that was more than enough for the Wildcats to cruise to victory. It was also the first time that the Cowboys trailed by at least 38 points in a game since 2014, which also was against K-State on the road. Spencer Sanders completed just 13 of 26 passes for 147 yards and an interception. The offense totaled 217 total yards on 63 plays, or just 3.4 per snap. Defensively, OSU couldn't stop Wildcats backup quarterback Will Howard, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 296 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Deuce Vaughn added 158 yards and a touchdown on the ground for a dynamic 1-2 punch.
Kansas (5-3, 2-3) was off last week, a needed break after suffering a third straight loss. Last time out, the Jayhawks fell 35-23 to Baylor as the offense managed just 288 yards and 11 first downs. The Bears ran roughshod on KU to the tune of 273 yards on 57 carries. Jason Bean was fine (16-of-27, 232 yds., TD), but KU's ground game produced just 56 yards on 22 attempts. That, combined with Baylor's effectiveness, meant the defense was on the field far too long, with the Bears dominating time of possession (40:10 to 19:50). With a week to recover and reset, the Jayhawks will look to rediscover their early-season form as they are still one win shy of becoming bowl eligible.
Kansas also will try and conquer some recent history on Saturday. Oklahoma State has dominated this series with 12 straight wins. The Cowboys' last loss in Lawrence came way back in 1994.
No. 18 Oklahoma State at Kansas
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Sanders left last week's game with an injury, and his health heading into this week's game is uncertain. Whether he starts or not could be a game-time decision. If he can't go, Gunnar Gundy, the son of head coach Mike Gundy, would get the call. Gunnar Gundy went 2-for-7 for 16 yards and an interception in mop-up duty in last week's shutout loss to Kansas State. The Cowboys would probably go with a more conservative approach on offense if Gundy is under center. That would put more of an emphasis on running the ball, but that's been a struggle too. Gundy was the leading rusher last week with 27 yards on five carries. OSU averaged a meager 1.8 yards per attempt against the Wildcats.
But Kansas has had its own issues stopping the run last time out, giving up 273 yards to Baylor. Richard Reese did a bulk of the damage, gashing the Jayhawks for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. A heavy workload didn't prevent Reese from being effective. Dominic Richardson is the Cowboys' leading ground gainer with 451 yards and eight touchdowns (tied with Sanders for team lead), but he missed last week's game because of an injury. His status is unknown heading into this one. Overall, OSU's backfield is pretty beat up, so the Pokes may not even be able to take advantage of what has been a generous KU run defense. Brennan Presley (38 rec., 462 yds., 2 TDs) is the top target in the passing game, but how that looks will depend on who is in at quarterback for Oklahoma State. While teams have been able to move the ball and score on Kansas' defense, the Jayhawks have been opportunistic, leading the Big 12 with 15 takeaways, including eight interceptions. Cobee Bryant and Kenny Logan Jr. have each picked off a pair of passes.
When Kansas Has the Ball
Balance is going to be a big key to victory for the Jayhawks, especially coming off of a poor showing against Baylor in their last game. The running game needs to find its rhythm early to take pressure off whoever is at quarterback. Recently that's been Jason Bean because of Jalon Daniels' shoulder injury, but Daniels is back practicing so it's possible he could be cleared to return. While that would be quite the jolt in the arm for this offense, the bigger priority is for Devin Neal to bounce back after putting up 32 rushing yards in the loss to the Bears. For the season, he's averaging 6.2 yards per carry and should find running room against an Oklahoma State defense that allowed 199 yards last Saturday to Kansas State.
On the other side, the Cowboys' defense will look for a better effort as this unit has been absolutely torched in Big 12 games, to the tune of more than 500 yards and 36 points per contest. Linebacker Mason Cobb is one of the conference's leading tacklers with 69 total stops, and defensive end Tyler Lacy (3 sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss) needs to make his presence felt up front. It also would help Oklahoma State to force a couple of turnovers but that hasn't been this defense's strong suit (nine total, seven of them INTs).
Both teams have health concerns at quarterback, which could be the deciding factor here. Oklahoma State has had Kansas' number for more than a decade, but this is not your typical Jayhawks team. The Cowboys are coming off one of their worst performances in a long time, so they will need to have a short memory and get back to what helped them win six games already. Kansas has lost three in a row but can't let that or the 12-game losing skid to OSU interfere with its confidence and mindset, especially coming back from a bye. The Jayhawks should be healthier than the Pokes, but Spencer Sanders is the real x-factor here. If he plays, he should be able to lead his team to another win over KU. However, if he can't go and the Jayhawks get Daniels back under center, then all bets are off and this game becomes a toss-up. Either way, expect plenty of offensive fireworks in Lawrence because both defenses have had trouble slowing down Big 12 opponents this season.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 34, Kansas 30
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– Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Contributor Network.
*Price as of publication.