It’s going to be a down and dirty battle royal in Stillwater on Saturday when the visiting Baylor Bears, undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the current BCS standings, face the upset-minded Oklahoma State Cowboys in perhaps the Bears biggest challenge of the season. It’s also the game of the week in college football, or so say the producers at ESPN’s College GameDay, which will be in Stillwater to preview the game.
The winner of this game will clearly have the inside track to the Big 12 championship. Oklahoma State already has a conference loss (to West Virginia in its first conference game this season), so the Cowboys cannot afford another loss. A Baylor loss, on the other hand, would not be fatal to the Bears’ title chances, but would set up the scenario under which they would need to win their final two regular-season games, at TCU and home against Texas, and have Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State (the same day Baylor hosts Texas) to win their first Big 12 football crown.
Oklahoma State has won all nine of the games with Baylor played in Stillwater during the Big 12 era and 15 of the previous 17 contests between the two schools. The two losses were at Baylor, including last season.
Baylor head coach Art Briles had this to say in his press conference earlier this week about his teams troubles over the years winning at Oklahoma State: “They’ve just played better than we have when we’ve been up there…It’s just the nature of the business. We’ve certainly got to do a better job of tightening up our focus, making sure our game plan is right and eliminating anything that might give them added momentum during the game.
“I think we’re going in there as a more mature football team than we have in the past,” Briles said.
The Bears have only played two true road games this season, winning by 10 at Kansas State and by 45 at Kansas.
Oklahoma State is seeking its 10th win of the season on Saturday, which would be the third time in the past four seasons the Cowboys have won 10 or more games, and its ninth consecutive victory at home. The 10th-ranked Cowboys are 9-3 against their last 12 ranked opponents.
“We have to score because they’re going to score,” said Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy this week about his team’s upcoming opponent. “There’s only so many ways you can line up on defense. That really doesn’t change much in a game. Offensively, we have to run our plays and we have to play our game. In the kicking game, we have to find a way to be sound and win that part of the game. That gives us a chance to win.”
Baylor is hoping to have back its top two running backs, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, for the game on Saturday. Both have been out with injuries since the Oklahoma game two weeks ago. Seastrunk leads the Big 12 in rushing, averaging 111 yards a gane and over 8.0 yards per carry. Freshman Shock Linwood has filled in in grand style for the nation’s most prolific offense the past two games, however. Linwood gained a career-high 187 yards against Texas Tech last weekend and had 182 yards on the ground vs. Oklahoma.
The leader of the Bears’ high-scoring offense, though, unquestionably has been quarterback Bryce Petty, who leads the country with 332.4 passing yards per game and is completing 65 percent of his passes. His sterling numbers include 24 touchdown passes and only one interception in 233 pass attempts.
Oklahoma State possesses its share of offensive weapons, as well. Running back Desmond Roland has been picking up big rushing yardage the past few games and senior quarterback Clint Chelf is completing 52 percent of his passes and showed last week vs. Texas that he could do it with his legs as well as his arm.
The status of Josh Stewart, the Cowboys’ best receiver and one of the counhtry’s best punt returners is unknown for this game. Stewart missed the Texas game last weekend with an ankle injury and his status was still questionable earlier this week. His availability could be a big factor in the outcome of Saturday’s showdown with league-leading Baylor.
One more interesting story line in this game is that Baylor’s Briles and Gundy of Oklahoma State are both semifinalists for the Maxwell Club National Coach of the Year Award.
Three Key Things To Watch For In The Baylor-Oklahoma State Game
- Can the Big 12′s third-best team in rush defense (Oklahoma State) slow down the conference’s best rushing attack (300 yards per game, almost 70 yards more per game than the nrxt best team, Oklahoma) enough to disrupt quarterback Bryce Petty and Baylor’s sure-handed receivers in the passing game?
- In order to win this game, Oklahoma State is going to have to be able to stall Baylor offensive drives by getting stops on third down and keeping the Bears’ offense on the sideline as much as possible. The problem: Baylor leads the Big 12 in third-down conversions (52.4 percent success rate). OSU, however, leads the conference in third-down-conversion defense (32 percent success rate).
- Oklahoma State is also capable of scoring a lot of points, but the Cowboys won’t be able to win a shootout with the Baylor offense (just too many offensive weapons for the Bears). In a game such as this, ball control, protecting the ball and ball or field position become the great neutralizer. This will be very interesting to watch because both teams like to play fast, which can shorten possession time as well as tire your team’s defensive unit, and both are at the top of the league in turnover ratio (plus 13 for Oklahoma State and plus nine for Baylor).
Game prediction: Baylor 48, Oklahoma State 31 – The Bears are too good and too deep on offense and better than the Cowboys defensively this season. the only way Baylor will lose this game is to beat themselves.
Other Big 12 Picks in Week 13
Kansas 20 @ Iowa State 28 - Iowa State is a better team than its 1-9 record (0-7 in the Big 12) indicates. Kansas won its first conference game in 28 tries last weekend. Iowa State will break its 0-for string this season on Saturday with a win 0ver a Jayhawk team coming down from all the excitement from last weekend.
Oklahoma 31 @ Kansas State 35 - Kansas State is playing well and is at home for its final home game of the year. The Sooners are too banged up on both sides of the ball, plus they are without their best running back, Damien Williams, who is suspended for this game along with receiver Lacoltan Bester.
Last week’s results: 4-1
For the season: 50-16 (.757 )