Oklahoma (8-1) vs. Baylor (8-0) 8:00 pm
Since 2010, Baylor is 3-2 against the Oklahoma Sooners. Baylor has won the last two games in the series by an average margin of victory of 31.5 points per game. Oklahoma’s last victory in the series came in Norman in 2013 by a score of 42-34.
The Sooners have been playing very well since their loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma is averaging 46.3 points per game and is averaging 211 rushing yards per game along with 338 yards through the air this season. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has been an excellent addition to the team and has made proper reads in the passing attack that has allowed the Sooners to stretch opposing defenses vertically. Mayfield has been able to step up in big games (Tennessee and Kansas State) and has completed 70.2% of his passes for 2,812 yards with 28 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Mayfield has shown confidence in the system and has been able to make plays with his legs this year to keep defenses honest. On the season, Mayfield has recorded 5 rushing touchdowns and will need to be patient on Saturday night against an aggressive Baylor defense. Oklahoma has a solid group of wide receivers that give Mayfield a lot of options in the passing game. Last season, the team relied solely on wide receiver Sterling Shepard who was the main target for the quarterbacks last year. Shepard leads the team with 47 receptions for 826 passing yards with 7 touchdowns, however, teammates DeDe Westbrook and Durron Neal are other options that Mayfield can turn to that force defenses to cover the whole field. Westbrook is second on the team with 38 receptions for 593 yards with 3 touchdowns and Neal has 38 receptions for 476 yards with 3 touchdowns. Oklahoma will want to put pressure on the Baylor secondary and force the defense to play zone coverage most of the game. By stretching the Bears vertically, the running lanes could be opened later in the game for running backs Samje Perine and Joe Mixon. Perine is a tough between the tackles runner that leads the team with 806 rushing yards per game averaging 5.7 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns while Mixon (519 yards 6.6 yards per carry 5 TD’s) is the speedy change of pace back that can put pressure on the edge of the defense. On the season, the Sooners are averaging 211 rushing yards per game.
Oklahoma has been playing much better defense this season and has allowed 18.1 points per game. The Sooners are allowing 148 rushing yards per game and giving up 178 passing yards per game to their opponents. The unit has done an excellent job at creating pressure and has recorded 34 sacks this year which is 2nd is FBS . Linebacker Eric Striker leads the team with 7.5 sacks and will be a key factor on the defensive side of the ball for the Sooners in this game. Look for Striker to be utilized in blitz packages off of the edge to force Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham to make reads. Oklahoma will want to mix up coverage and defensive line looks to confuse Stidham who is making his second career start on Saturday night. Dominique Alexander is having a solid season and leads the team with 75 total tackles. Turnovers will be critical and the Sooners are +3 in turnover margin on the season. Look for the Sooners to be very aggressive defensively on Saturday night and to start early on to blitz Stidham and break his confidence. Head coach Bob Stoops will want to test Stidham early on and Oklahoma should challenge the Bears offensive line in pass protection.
The Bears are averaging 57.4 points per game and will be entering this matchup with freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham making his second career start in Waco. Last week, Stidham played well early on against Kansas State throwing for 3 touchdowns en route to the 31-24 victory on the road. Baylor has an explosive offense that is very balanced and is rushing for 308 yards per game allowing with throwing for 356 passing yards per game. Stidham has completed 77% of his passes for 750 yards with 9 touchdowns and no interceptions, however, this is the biggest game of his career. Stidham will need to make the proper reads in the passing game and the running attack with the read option. The Bears like to play up-tempo and as long as they get into a rhythm early on-it will take the pressure off of Stidham and allow him to play with confidence. Baylor has one of the most explosive players in college football in wide receiver Corey Coleman. Coleman leads the team with 58 receptions for 1,178 yards with 20 touchdowns and his ability to take the top off of the defense along with making yards after the catch will be critical for Baylor to get the home win. Wide receivers Jay Lee and K.D Cannon are great compliments to Coleman and will be utilized in the short to intermediate passing game by Stidham. Lee has recorded 26 receptions for 568 yards with 6 touchdowns while Cannon has recorded 29 receptions for 487 yards with 4 touchdowns. Running back Shock Linwood could be a game changer for the Bears offense and his ability to run between the tackles will be critical to keep Baylor from being one dimensional against the Sooners defense. Linwood leads the team with 1,046 yards averaging 7.8 yards per carry with 9 touchdowns and his ability to move the chains on the ground can be a factor for Baylor this weekend. Baylor will want to start fast and score first to allow Stidham to get comfortable in the game. Because this is his second start, look for Bears head coach Art Briles to open up with short to intermediate passes underneath coverage to allow Stidham to gain confidence. If Baylor falls behind early and has to paly catch up, this can force Stidham to play tight and put pressure on the young quarterback.
Defensively, the Bears are allowing 25 points per game and are giving up 164 rushing yards per game along with 223 passing yards per game to their opponents. In order to get the victory, the Bears will have to force Baker Mayfield to methodically work down the field and cannot afford to give up the deep ball. More importantly, will be the ability for Baylor to shut down the rushing attack of Oklahoma and force the Sooners to become one dimensional. Last week against the Wildcats, the Bears allowed 258 rushing yards and wore down late in the game. The unit will need a better effort on Saturday and must be able to generate a pass rush against Mayfield. Through the first eight games, the Bears have recorded 16 sacks as a unit. Defensive end Shawn Oakman leads the team with 4 sacks but was a non factor in the win against Kansas State (3 total tackles). Linebacker Grant Campbell leads the team with 64 total tackles and is the emotional leader of the defense. He can run sideline to sideline and is very solid in run support. Baylor has done an excellent job at forcing turnovers and must be able to win the turnover battle in order to give Stidham and the offense field position. On the year the Bears are +11 in turnover margin which ranks 3rd in FBS.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
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