- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here’s what we’ll be watching when Oklahoma visits Kansas on Saturday.
Replacing Jordan Phillips: The Sooners defensive tackle will miss the remainder of the season after having surgery Tuesday.
OU needs several defensive interior players, including Jordan Wade and Torrea Peterson, to step up to replace Phillips, who was becoming a legitimate force in the middle before his injury. It's unlikely one defender will step up and replace Phillips without help, but Sooners fans should hope to see someone make an impact at defensive tackle against the Jayhawks.
Quarterback controversy? OU has re-affirmed its commitment to Blake Bell this week, as the junior is poised to earn his fifth start of the season. Coach Bob Stoops has fielded questions about the Sooners willingness to play Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson this week, but the bigger question is who will be the Sooners quarterback of the future? Can Bell rebound from his lackluster play in recent weeks to prove he's that guy? Or will Knight regain his starting spot? Or could Thompson, who has never taken a collegiate snap, finally get an opportunity? We could starting getting some answers on Saturday.
Will Kansas' offensive shakeup impact the game? KU coach Charlie Weis has shuffled his offensive coaching staff responsibilities this week with an eye on sparking the Jayhawks' offense. But OU's defense will be on a mission to prove itself after being horrible on third down against Texas in the Red River Rivalry. If the Sooners defense looks more like the unit which was superb in OU's first five games, it might not matter what Weis has done to jump start KU's offense.
Can OU find a passing game? The Sooners' quarterback issues aren't the only reason their passing game has been very average. The receivers need to win their one-on-one battles consistently, the offensive line needs to hold up in pass protection and the running game will have to continue to have success. While the quarterback play has been suspect, it's not the only issue in OU's passing game. Their passing game must improve, and it needs to start Saturday.
Key plays in clutch moments. OU clearly lost the battle on third down against the Longhorns. The offense couldn't pick up first downs, and the defense couldn't stop the Longhorns on third down. If OU truly has its eye on a Big 12 championship, the Sooners will need their key playmakers to make clutch plays on third down to move the chains or force a punt.