The November Big 12 gauntlet, along with the conference’s desperate attempt to grab the CFP Committee’s attention, continues this Saturday. #10 Baylor pays a visit to Boone Pickens Stadium to take on #6 Oklahoma State. Baylor suffered its first setback of the season last week in Waco, losing 44-34, at the hands of the Sooners. While they only lost by ten, OU seemed to dominate the Bears more than the score would indicate.
Oklahoma State, in usual Oklahoma State fashion, once again lived dangerously last week having to piece together a 17-point comeback against an improved Iowa State team. They would go on to escape Ames with a 35-31 win. Of their ten wins, the Pokes have won by a margin of four points or less three times. They are the Big 12’s only remaining unbeaten team.
We’ve said it before this November and we’ll say it again. This match-up will have major playoff implications.
Date/Time: Saturday, November 21st, 6:30 PM CST
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, Oklahoma)
Forecast: Mostly Sunny and Windy, Winds at 22 MPH, 46° F
Betting Line: Oklahoma State -1, O/U 77.5
#10 Baylor Bears 8-1 (5-1)
Baylor started the year off mowing down their competition at will. They scored 60 or more points in five of their first 6 games. They’ve piled up thousands of yards and hundreds of points. However they’ve had one problem. Like all of the Big 12 leaders, their schedule was incredibly “back-loaded,” a term Big 12 fans have become all too familiar with. The college football world wanted to see what they’d do against a top team.
Last week the Bears had their first major test of the year and it didn’t go well for them. Oklahoma hung a major black cloud over Baylor’s playoff hopes, beating them by ten on a rainy night in McLane Stadium. It would be their first home loss since October of 2012.
Baylor, who’s looking to post a “three-peat” Big 12 Championship, will have to win out to even have a shot at a playoff spot. Not only that but they’ll probably have to do it in dramatic, blow-out fashion given the committee’s obvious disdain for the conference.
Keys To The Game For Baylor
Protect Stidham – Jarrett Stidham, Baylor’s five-star freshman quarterback who took over for the injured Seth Russell three weeks ago, had his first two interceptions of the season against the Sooners. He took multiple big hits against OU, and his health has been of much debate all week. If he plays, Baylor’s offensive line will have to be able to keep him upright.
Crank Up The Linwood Machine – In case you didn’t notice in the “Forecast” section above, it’s going to be gusty in Stillwater on Saturday. At best, if Stidham plays, he will be playing while bruised and sore. This is not a good combination for the Bears. Shock Linwood needs to have a big game on the ground. Oklahoma State fields the conference’s third-best rushing defense in the league though. He’ll have his work cut out for him.
Get The Intensity Back – One thing that stood out in the OU game was the Sooners seemed to be the aggressor on both sides of the ball. Overall they were just more physical than Baylor. OK State has had issues with fast starts so setting a lights-out, hard-hitting tone from the beginning would be huge for the Bears.
#6 Oklahoma State 10-0 (7-0)
I said earlier in the year that the Pokes were the Big 12’s most intriguing team. That still goes. However the army of OK-State doubters is still there (ahem, committee). While some people discuss favorable calls, playing down (or up) to their competition and close wins over teams they should be blowing out, State just keeps winning football games.
Offensively, there is nothing dazzling about this Cowboys team. They rank fifth in the conference in scoring offense, fifth in total offense, third in pass efficiency and ninth in rushing offense. However they’re one of only three teams in the Big 12 allowing under 400-yards-per-game. Also they lead the conference in turnover margin at +12.
A big part of the Poke’s success is the continuous maturation of Mason Rudolph as the season progresses. He has a nine to one ratio in touchdowns to interceptions over the last four games and is averaging 317.3 over that stretch. He’s had his struggles this season but seems to be better because of them.
Keys To The Game For Oklahoma State
Get To Stidham – I said this in my preview of OU/Baylor, and I’d say it worked. As true freshmen quarterbacks go, Stidham seems to be decidedly ahead of the curve. However, youth is youth. He’s proven that he can be forced into some interceptions when the pressure is on. With Stidham’s health a concern, Cowboy defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah smells blood in the water. If the Pokes can get some shots on Stidham they can do what they do best, and that’s force turnovers.
Try Leading For A Change – The Cowboys would be amazed how much easier the game of football is when you don’t have to climb out of giant deficits to win. Backup quarterback or not, if the Bears and their weapons are clicking, even OK-State’s uncanny ability to claw their back to a win might not be enough for a comeback against the likes of Baylor.
Recreate TCU Electricity – Boone Pickens Stadium can create as electric an atmosphere as there is in all of college football. We saw it in the TCU game and it was, no doubt, a factor. Some early big plays will ignite the crowd which can make things very difficult for a young quarterback.
When Vegas gives a one-point spread, you know it’s a tight match-up. Given that Baylor is coming off of their first loss of the year and State is fresh off of an ugly win, it’s tough to predict how these teams will react. That said, Baylor wins a close one on Saturday.
You would think I’d learn my lesson by now, picking against the Pokes, but I guess not. This is the one that the lack of running game finally comes back to haunt Oklahoma State. Granted, Rudolph has shown significant improvement this season, especially over the last four games. However, a 22-MPH wind commands a running game.
Also Briles and company watched Corey Coleman catch three balls for 51 yards and no touchdowns last week. I don’t see that happening again. They’ll figure out ways to get the ball in his hands and, when that happens, he breaks games open. It’s as simple as that.