LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield insisted that his third-ranked Sooners are approaching the trip to Kansas on Saturday as if they were facing anybody else on the daunting schedule.
He said it with a straight face, too.
The reality is that the Heisman Trophy front-runner has every reason to look past the one-win Jayhawks, especially with a tougher game against West Virginia and the revived Big 12 title game looming. And if the Sooners (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) get through those three games, they would likely end up in the College Football Playoff after moving up to fourth in the rankings this week.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We have to rise to the occasion and play well, week-in and week-out,” Mayfield said. “It’s been the same mindset, the same process. Nothing changes for me.”
Well, the opponent has changed.
Last week was a high-profile showdown against then-No. 6 TCU, which the Sooners won in convincing fashion. This week it’s a trip to Kansas (1-9, 0-7), which not only has dropped every game it has played against a Football Subdivision Opponent but has been blown out in almost all of them.
The closest game was a 10-point loss to rival Kansas State a few weeks ago.
So it would be easy for the Sooners to overlook the Jayhawks, but Mayfield and coach Lincoln Riley insist it’s not happening. They know that a mediocre effort against a low-level opponent would look bad in the eyes of the selection committee, and even a blowout win probably won’t help much.
“You can’t have the sense you’ve arrived,” Riley said. “When you start feeling that way, you’re in trouble. There’s so many things we can do better. We’ve had a lot of growth as a football team — we’ve taken some positive steps. But there’s a lot of football left to be played.”
Not nearly as much for the Jayhawks, who will play their home finale on Saturday before hitting the road to Oklahoma State to wrap up another dismal season under third-year coach David Beaty.
Beaty got a vote of confidence this week from school Chancellor Douglas Girod in a letter sent to faculty and students, writing that the coach has the right “long-term vision” for the program.
In the short term, Beaty desperately needs a win. He is 3-31 with the Jayhawks.
“This is a terrific football team that’s coming in and we’ve got a great opportunity,” Beaty said. “We’ve got a really great opportunity, and our guys are excited, encouraged and confident.”
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)