The sixth-ranked Baylor Bears are in the thick of the Big 12 Conference title chase, but they need to win this Saturday against Oklahoma State, as well their remaining two games against Texas Tech and Kansas State.
And even then, they would need TCU, which they trail by a half game heading into this week, to lose at least once as the Bears hold the tie-breaker by virtue of their 61-58 win over the Horned Frogs back on Oct. 11.
Baylor's lone setback of the season took place in the middle of last month at West Virginia, 41-27, but coach Art Briles' club has responded by hammering both Kansas (60-14) and Oklahoma (48-14) since. The Bears were idle last weekend.
The wheels have come off for Oklahoma State, which is currently mired in a four-game losing streak. The run of futility is somewhat surprising considering the team had five in a row prior, although the level of competition has certainly gone up. Last week's outing at home against Texas resulted in a 28-7 setback, prompting coach Mike Gundy to take a long, hard look at himself, his staff and his players in an effort to come up with a solution.
"We had a difficult time up front with handling our guys on offense. Defensively, they really rocked us a little better that what he had wanted. For that reason, it makes it difficult to function very well."
He continued, "The guys are giving effort, but there are a couple of spots where we're not as strong and experienced. When you run into guys that have as good of a defensive front as they've got, it makes it difficult."
Oklahoma State owns a 19-13 advantage in the all-time series, and the Cowboys won last year's tussle in Stillwater, 49-17. Baylor came out victorious in the last meeting in Waco, 41-34, in 2012.
The Oklahoma State offense was stymied by an aggressive Texas defense last time out, the Pokes amassing only 192 yards and failing to register a single point until well into the fourth quarter. OSU managed only 34 net rushing yards, while the passing attack under the direction of Daxx Garman accounted for just 158 yards.
On the other side, the OSU defense had a tough time containing the Longhorns' passing attack, which generated 305 yards and a pair of TDs, with UT quarterback Tyrone Swoopes completing 24-of-33 attempts. He was however, sacked three times, and Seth Jacobs paced the Pokes with seven tackles.
For the season, the Cowboys are averaging 26.3 points and 367 yards per contest, with the run being the more consistent form of attack, what with Desmond Roland and Tyreek Hill combining for 977 yards and eight TDs, seven of which belong to Roland. As for Garman, he has hit the mark on 54.9 percent of his throws for just over 2,000 yards. He is dead even in TD-to-INT ratio (12-12), and both David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd have more than 400 receiving yards, but only three combined TDs.
Jordan Stearns and Ryan Simmons lead the defense with 78 and 72 tackles, respectively, while Emmanuel Ogbah has 10 of the team's 28 sacks, which ties the Pokes for second-most in the conference. Oklahoma State is surrendering 30 ppg, with opponents running for 139.5 ypg and passing for 284.9 ypg, the latter figure ranking the squad near the bottom of the Big 12.
As inept as the OSU offense has been for the most part, the same can not be said for Baylor, which is the most potent offensive team in the nation in averaging 50.1 points and 585.1 yards per contest. Bryce Petty has thrown for more than 2,400 yards with 21 TDs and only three INTs, and he has a slew of talented pass catchers at his disposal, led by Corey Coleman (44 rec., 796 yards, eight TDs), KD Cannon (38 rec., 731 yards, six TDs) and Antwan Goodley (38 rec., 572 yards, four TDs). As for the BU rushing attack, it is in good hands with Shock Linwood leading the way with 864 yards and a dozen TDs.
Defensively, the Bears have been on point against most foes this season, the team yielding just 21 ppg, tying it with Texas for the top spot in the Big 12. Briles' bunch has been especially strong against the run, permitting a league- low 107.8 ypg and only 10 TDs on the ground. The 322.2 ypg the team gives up in all ranks it atop the conference as well. The Bears are at the top, or among the league leaders in turnover margin (+9, second), opponents first downs (152, first) and sacks (28, tied for second).
Bryce Hager has been the team leader in tackles all season, as his 73 total stops are 18 more than his closest teammate at the moment. Orion Stewart and Xavien Howard have each picked off three passes, while Shawn Oakman has six sacks to his credit.
Having had a couple of weeks to rest up and prepare for the home stretch, Baylor fans are still giddy following their team's rout of Oklahoma. In that game, Coleman set career highs with 15 catches and 224 yards, and he accounted for a pair of scores (one receiving, one rushing). It was the most receptions ever allowed by the Sooners to one player in a single game. As for Petty, he completed 32-of-42 passes for 387 yards and a score, and the Bears won in Norman for the first time in 12 attempts. Linwood ran for 87 yards and two TDs, while Devin Chafin also scored twice on the ground for Baylor, which racked up 544 yards of total offense, compared to only 319 for Oklahoma.
The Bears defended the pass exceptionally well in the game, permitting only 148 yards that way, although OU did score twice through the air. Hager led the way with 10 tackles and he also had an INT. The BU defense was on the field for just over 24 minutes, as it held the Sooners to 4-of-13 success on third- down conversion attempts.
Briles was obviously pleased to get the victory, but really liked the way his team rose to the occasion throughout.
"I was just really proud of our football team. I thought we had a lot of guys that played up to their skill level. That is really what you look for in life, not just football. In whatever job you do, if you do the best that you can do and to the level that you were blessed with then that is being successful."