Week 11 Preview: Oklahoma at Baylor

Baylor (7-1) at Oklahoma (6-2) Nov. 8, 12:00, FOX Sports 1 

Here’s The Deal: It used to be so easy and obvious. Baylor would show up, Oklahoma would win by a bazillion points, Baylor would go home. 

And all was right with the world. 

And then Baylor got this silly notion that it might like to be better at playing college football, and improved in a big, big way, throttling the Sooners 41-12 last year and winning two of the last three games. Before that, as Big 12 South brothers, Oklahoma provided atomic wedgies on a yearly basis winning all of the previous 15 games in the Big 12, and the four before that – starting in 1973 – to go 19-0 in the series before Robert Griffin III decided it was time to win the Heisman. 

This time around, Baylor has more to play for with a spot in the College Football Playoff still potentially there for the taking despite a loss to West Virginia a few weeks ago. The Bears still have to face Kansas State at home on December 6th, and that could turn into the Big 12 title game if both teams are 10-1, and that could mean really, really big things. 

The problem so far is that Baylor has one good win and a ton of hot garbage. Even that win over a tremendous TCU team was a bit marred by a defense that didn’t stop anything until an odd fourth down play call late. But there are chances at earning more respect on the way starting with this week’s showdown. Beat Oklahoma in Norman, and then the West Virginia loss might quickly be forgotten. 

Oklahoma can boast over being among the few to beat an SEC team – whacking around Tennessee 34-10 – but it’s Oklahoma, so it blew it during the regular season despite being the league’s most talented team. On the flip side, while it’s not fair to do the “if” and “but” thing, OU is four points away from being perfect right now and the CFP No. 1 team. The firepower hasn’t left, scoring in bunches on a weekly basis, and while the defense hasn’t been a rock, it’s been good enough. 

The playoff is realistically out for OU, but it can play its way into one of the big New Year’s bowl games with a win. If the Sooners win this, they’ll almost certainly go on to finish 10-2 with Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State to finish things up. 

Save the defense for later on in the day in some of the bigger games. Get your popcorn ready and enjoy the high-octane show. 

Why Baylor Might Win: Considering all the talent across the board, and despite owning a top-shelf defensive front, Oklahoma’s defense has been just plain mediocre. The pass defense has been the biggest issue, allowing 200 yards or more against everyone but Louisiana Tech in the opener – the Bulldogs came up with 191 – and getting toasted on way too many deep shots in Big 12 action making the 15-yard-per-catch average the norm. The OU defense hasn’t been a rock against the run, either, having to deal with shootout after shootout with Big 12 teams able to gouge out big yards in chunks. The Bears should come up with a balanced attack to keep everything moving. 

Why Oklahoma Might Win: The Bears give up passing yards in chunks, too, struggling against the two quarterbacks on the schedule so far – TCU’s Trevone Boykin and West Virginia’ Clint Trickett – who could throw a forward pass. There’s one much bigger problem for Art Briles’ club: the Baylor penalties have been absolutely ridiculous. It’s one thing to have a high-powered offense that’s able to make up for a sin here and there with one flick of the wrist, and it’s another to commit 18 penalties for 215 yards like the Bears did against West Virginia. When getting flagged six times for 54 yards is a good day – like it was last week against Iowa State – there’s a problem, committing ten penalties or more in every game but two. 

Who To Watch Out For: The offensive lines are among the best in the country in pass protection. Baylor’s O line has allowed just 11 sacks on 312 pass attempts, and Oklahoma’s front five has given up a mere five sacks on the year. Trevor Knight might need the time with star receiver Sterling Shepard trying to fight through a groin injury that knocked him out last week. The team’s leading receiver was coming off a 15-catch, 197-yard day against Iowa State with a 46-yard grab early on against Iowa State, but he got hurt. The offense was just fine without him, but Knight needs his top weapon to help keep up the pace. 

What’s Going To Happen: The Oklahoma defense will rise up and play one of its best games of the year – for about three quarters. Bryce Petty and the Baylor offense will get hot at the right time in the fourth quarter, but it’ll be too late. OU will hold on after a big early lead, finally putting it away on a long march – helped by a key penalty. 

Prediction: Oklahoma 41 … Baylor 34 
Line: Oklahoma -5 o/u: 73 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Sonic Highways – 1: Anything involving Nik Wallenda … 4.5