NORMAN — BCS No. 9 Oklahoma returns to action this evening against Kansas on Owen Field, and while the game may not seem too intriguing to most — the Sooners should win it easily — there are several things to keep your eyes on.
Here are your three questions and three goals for Saturday.
* How will OU fare against KU running back James Sims?
James Sims was suspended for the Jayhawks’ first three contests, but has made up for lost time. Sims has rushed for 344 yards in the three games he’s been back, and his 30-yard touchdown run last weekend against Oklahoma State put Kansas in position to possibly upset the defending Big 12 champs. After struggling against UTEP’s Nathan Jeffery and Kansas State’s John Hubert earlier this season, OU’s run defense has been stout over the past couple weeks against Texas Tech and Texas. Middle linebacker Tom Wort has bought into the new system and, although his tackling numbers may not be eye-popping, he’ll be vital to stopping Sims and the KU rushing attack.
* Really, how good is the Kansas defense?
The Jayhawks were successful in slowing down Oklahoma State’s high-powered attack last week, but there’s no doubt that weather played a part in it. The Cowboys also certainly aren’t what they were last season. Still, new defensive coordinator Dave Campo does seem to be making an impact. KU ranks 13th in the nation — and second in the Big 12 — in red-zone defense, and has forced opposing offenses into 14 turnovers.
* Will the Sooners look past the Jayhawks and toward next week’s showdown with Notre Dame?
Bob Stoops’ teams have never lost their game after the annual showdown with Texas, and there’s no reason to really believe it could happen Saturday. Kansas has a long, long way to go before it will be capable of doing what it would take to beat this kind of Oklahoma team, especially in Norman. If the Jayhawks come out with a lot of energy and fire, they may force a turnover early and have a little momentum. But this one will easily be over by halftime.
* Hold James Sims under 100 yards
Sims has shown that he’s a solid back, and OU has, at times, struggled against good running attacks — including the last time it was at home in a loss to Kansas State. This is a good opportunity for the Sooner defense to show its home fans the continued improvements it has made as it adapts more to Mike Stoops’ defense. A dominant defensive performance at home — even against an inferior opponent — would be huge for a unit continuing to build confidence as it prepares for a gaunlet schedule, starting next week against Notre Dame.
* No interceptions for Landry Jones
Even in last week’s dominant win over Texas, Landry Jones made an errant throw that was returned for a Texas touchdown. Fortunately for the Sooners, the game was well in hand at that point. But Jones needs to use games like this to really focus on making the right reads, staying calm in the pocket and making good decisions with the football. He even threw a head-scratching interception early against Florida A&M; he needs to not do that against the Jayhawks.
* Get Trey Metoyer and Jalen Saunders more involved in the offense
Oklahoma has continued struggling to get Trey Metoyer involved in the offense. The true freshman receiver came in with lots of hype, but so far has only shown glimpses of the enormous talent and skills he put on display in the spring game. Against a team like Kansas, it’s time for Metoyer to have a big game, improve his confidence and increase the confidence Landry Jones has in him. Jalen Saunders, the Fresno State transfer who was just ruled eligible, showed a little of what he can do against Texas with his two catches, but Kansas also represents a chance for him to work more with Jones in a game situation.