Kansan Sports Associate Editor Andrew Lind met with Dean Ruhl, sports editor of the O'Colly, to talk about the Jayhawks' battle with No. 15 Oklahoma State Saturday.
Lind: How do you think the Cowboys will look out of the gate?
“I think out the gate, OSU been pretty efficient,” Ruhl said. “When you look at them in the first quarter, I think they've been able to drive the ball pretty efficiently how they've wanted to, and I think tomorrow is going to be no different. The problem with OSU has continued to be third-quarter offense. They have scored three points in the third quarter all of this year — one field goal... But I think yeah, right out of the gates, OSU is coming off the loss, you're gonna have the rush of the homecoming crowd there. I think OSU is gonna jump out to a pretty significant early lead.”
Lind: Who are the key offensive players that the Kansas defense has to look out for?
“Obviously, you've got a guy like [quarterback] Spencer Sanders, who's kind of starting to mature, becoming more seasoned passer staying in the pocket more,” Ruhl said. “They've [OSU] really been improving on the past protection with the offensive line. And they've also been able to get the run game going pretty crazy. Jaylen Warren was a guy who not many people in Stillwater even really knew who he was. And now he's kind of starting to get that recognition within the conference. I think those two things are helping open up the pass game, which is allowing Spencer Sanders to find some guys like Tay Martin. They've also got Brennan Presley, who became big, you know, had his big coming-out game against Miami in the Cheez-It Bowl last year.”
Ruhl’s offensive ranking: B+
Lind: Talk about the Oklahoma State defense. Who is tougher to beat, the defensive line or the secondary?
“OSU’s defense is a really interesting unit this year, in that I think the youngest guy is a junior, it's a very veteran-heavy team,” Ruhl said. “The mastermind behind the whole thing is the defensive coordinator, Jim Knowles. He’s got a saying: ‘give us an inch and we'll defend it.’ And that's been the defense's motto this year, and they really lived up to that. It's a really balanced attack. I think the secondary didn't play lights out against Iowa State last weekend. But they're [defensive line] not afraid to play man coverage and blitz because of how veteran that that secondary is that they have no issue playing one on one back there. I think the strongest unit on that defense is the linebackers. Malcolm Rodriguez is a guy who can drop back in coverage if need be. He's also a guy who can go and layout your quarterback — he's got the best of both worlds there."
Ruhl’s defensive ranking: A+
Lind: What is one area that Kansas might be able to exploit?
“Kansas, I think can exploit, OSU been having some pretty significant troubles in the special teams game,” Ruhl said. “I think they're only making 58% of their field goals this year. They've missed a significant amount. Kicker Tanner Brown, he missed both field-goal attempts he had Saturday. So if Kansas can maybe, keep OSU out of the red zone, maybe put them right there out of that field goal range, OSU might send a punt crew out before they send the field goal unit out.”
Lind: What is your final score prediction and why?
I don't buy into that, OSU -30 spread,” Ruhl said. “I think that's a little much. I do think the stars align a little bit though, just with homecoming, [a] bad loss and historically an opponent they've done well against. I think I put the final score right around 35- 20, OSU winning by about 15 to a touchdown win. And that's just because I think in years past, it would have been a bigger margin win for OSU, but I think Kansas is trending in the right direction with Lance Leipold. I think he is an impressive coach. This isn't the year they're going to turn it around, but I would not be surprised if Kansas really does. Kansas is a Big 12 school trending in the right direction when you've got schools like [Texas] Tech and West Virginia trending in the wrong direction.”
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. from Boone Pickens Stadium.