Oklahoma football: Five things to watch during Oklahoma-Kansas

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

OU's Kenneth Murray (9) sacks Tech quarterback Jeyy Duffey during the Sooners' game against Texas Tech on Sept 28 at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Murray and the OU defense is motivated to have a better day against Kansas on Saturday than it did last season.

Oklahoma travels to Lawrence, Kansas, for its first Big 12 road test on Saturday.

The No. 6-ranked Sooners will face the 2-3 Jayhawks, who are led by first-year Kansas coach Les Miles.

OU won 55-40 over Kansas in last year’s meeting to claim its 14th consecutive win in the series, which the Sooners lead 76-27-6.

Kansas is off to an 0-2 start in conference play but looked solid in a Week 3 victory at Boston College.

Here are five things to watch on Saturday:

1. Kennedy Brooks’ effectiveness and usage: Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks was on the receiving end of an illegal block against Texas Tech last Saturday. Texas Tech’s Eli Howard launched at Brooks’ knees, prompting an injury timeout. The Sooner tailback walked off the field on his own power but did not re-enter the game.

When asked about Brooks’ status, OU coach Lincoln Riley said the running back, who’s accounted for 206 yards rushing and a touchdown this season, will be available.

"Yeah, he's doing good,” Riley said. “All good. He'll play this week."

Even if Brooks suits up, it’s fair to assume OU might try to lean more on its other running backs — Trey Sermon and Rhamondre Stevenson.

And it might not matter much for the Sooners, who face a Kansas defense that ranks No. 113 in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (208.5) through five games.

2. Which Kansas team will show up: Kansas made waves when it rocked Boston College 48-24 on Sept. 13, and it was a last-minute play away from beating West Virginia.

The Jayhawks didn't look nearly as improved in a blowout loss to TCU, as well as a 12-7 loss to Sub Belt foe Coastal Carolina.

It’s unclear which team OU will get on Saturday. Although, Riley has plenty of respect for Miles.

“All the stops he's been, he's been highly successful,” Riley said. “Has a unique way of attacking it and doesn't really care about the outside, just does what he thinks is best and you got to give him credit. He's certainly made an impact at this Kansas program in a certain amount of time."

3. Khalil Herbert’s absence: Miles announced senior running back Khalil Herbert is no longer with the Jayhawk football program on Wednesday.

Herbert scored twice and rushed for 64 yards against OU in 2018 and picked up 384 yards rushing on 43 attempts in four games this season.

Herbert was Kansas' 2019 leading rusher but missed the team's Week 5 game against TCU. The Jayhawks will now have to rely on Pooka Williams, who has 308 yards rushing on 67 carries this season.

Williams did a solid job against OU last season, rushing for 252 yards on 15 carries (16.8 yards per rush), which has motivated the Sooner defense to do better this time around.

“Most definitely,” OU linebacker Kenneth Murray said. “Obviously it’s a new year but going back to what happened last year, how many rushing yards we did give up, I didn’t feel like we played up to our standard. This year, new team, new identity. Now we’ve got an opportunity to go out there and play our brand of football.”

4. If Gabe Brkic continues to handle field-goal duties: Redshirt freshman Gabe Brkic made a good impression as OU's field-goal kicker against Texas Tech. He nailed 2-of-2 field goal attempts, one for 33 yards and the other from 34.

Brkic started the season purely as OU's kickoff specialist, but filled in for Calum Sutherland, who did not appear in warmups before Texas Tech one week following his arrest on a public intoxication complaint.

Sutherland, a redshirt sophomore, is 2-of-4 on field goals this season, which could give OU’s coaches reason to rethink its field-goal unit.

"As far as reopening it, it's always kind of open,” Riley said. “You think somebody's doing a better job than the person you are playing with at any position we are going to make that change. Obviously this situation presented Gabe an opportunity and Gabe did well with it. There's no question about it. We'll evaluate it as we go through the week and just put the best guy out there that is ready to help us beat Kansas."

5. How weather will affect the game: A weather delay isn’t out of the question for the Sooners’ 11 a.m. tilt with the Jayhawks.

As of Thursday, an 80-percent chance of showers and thunderstorms were expected in Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday.

The inclement weather should clear up later in the day but it could be worth watching how both teams approach the weather.

The Sooners might not be able to air out as much as they would prefer, and the same go for quarterback Carter Stanley and the Jayhawks.

Both teams have quality running backs to rely; although, the Sooners figure to be deeper with Sermon, Stevenson and the frequent designed run for quarterback Jalen Hurts.

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