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No. 6 Oklahoma wary of upset possibilities as it heads to Kansas for a Big 12 showdown

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — No. 6 Oklahoma has already beaten Texas in what should have been the hardest game on its schedule, yet the Sooners’ great escape last week against UCF served notice that not everything is going to be easy the rest of the way.

Especially with Kansas starting off four consecutive games against teams with winning records — three of them on the road.

“It’s going to help us stay disciplined all week,” Sooners linebacker Dasan McCullough said of the 31-29 win over the Knights, when they needed to repel a 2-point conversion attempt in the final 2 minutes to preserve the margin of victory.

“We thought we were disciplined with them during last week,” McCullough said, “and come game day, obviously not.”

The Sooners (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) have plenty of reasons to overlook the Jayhawks. They’ve won 18 straight in the series, with their last loss coming during the 1997 season, and they rolled to a 52-42 victory a year ago in a game that wasn’t that close.

Yet the Jayhawks (5-2, 2-2) are coming off a bye. It’s Homecoming. And setting up the action will be Fox, which is bringing its Big Noon Kickoff pregame show to town with host Rob Stone and analysts Urban Meyer, Brady Quinn and Matt Leinart.

All of that attention is proof that these aren’t the same old Jayhawks that were routinely thrashed by Oklahoma over the years, but an ascending program under third-year coach Lance Leipold that has started to gain some national recognition.

“It’s another great opportunity for us to show the progress of our program. Show what this group is all about, where we are heading,” Leipold said. “A lot of wins there, a lot of great opportunities for our program, our athletic department and university.”

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A win on the field would cap it all off.

While the Sooners are coming off a humbling win over UCF, the Jayhawks headed into their bye smarting from a 39-32 loss at Oklahoma State, when they led late in the fourth quarter and surrendered nine points in the final 2:33 of regulation. They played that game once again without quarterback Jalon Daniels, whose back injury could sideline him this week, too.

That doesn’t mean Oklahoma is taking it easy. Especially after last week.

“I have a lot of respect for what the Kansas program is today, the transformation that has taken place under Coach Leipold and his staff,” said Sooners coach Brent Venables, who was raised in Salina, Kansas, and has many ties to the state. “What a great example of development, and great schemes to put their people in position to be successful.”

SPILL THE BEAN(S)

Jason Bean is expected to start against for Kansas, and he will be facing an Oklahoma defense that allowed UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee to throw for 248 yards and account for three touchdowns last week. Bean threw for 410 yards and five TDs with two interceptions in the Jayhawks’ loss to Oklahoma State.

NIC OF TIME

Oklahoma wide receiver Nic Anderson was the Big 12 newcomer of the week after catching five passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns against the Knights. That gave him 16 catches for 387 yards with half of those catches going for scores.

LOGAN’S RUN

There might be no more important player when it comes to slowing down Oklahoma’s fast-paced offense than Kansas safety Kenny Logan Jr.. The veteran acts as the quarterback of the defense, albeit one who makes a bunch of tackles. He has 336 for his career, the sixth-most among active players in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

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ENERGY EFFICIENCY

While the Sooners get plenty of deserved credit for their uptempo pace, the Jayhawks actually field one of the most productive offenses in the country. They are averaging 7.2 yards per play, which is second in the Big 12 and sixth in the FBS, and a big part of that is Devin Neal. He is fourth among Power Five programs with an average of 7.3 yards per carry, and that puts him on pace to break the school record for a career with a minimum of 150 carries held by Gale Sayers.

FRESHMAN IN FOCUS

Oklahoma running back Gavin Sawchuck made a statement for playing time against UCF, running 10 times for 63 yards and a touchdown in his most extensive action. Marcus Major is still the lead back with 308 yards rushing and a score this season, but his 3.9 yards per carry are modest enough to give Oklahoma running backs coach DeMarco Murray reason to think.

“DeMarco is the CEO of his position,” Venables said. “I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a head coach tell me who I can start and who I can’t as long as everyone is in good standing. That’s the position coach. That’s why you pay him.”

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball