|Oklahoma Game Preview Part 3|
We have looked at key players and how the two teams match up on offense and defense, so let's take a look at the keys to the game and our official prediction in part 3 of our preview series.
Last year, the Baylor Bears finally got that elusive win against the Oklahoma Sooners in one of the best wins during last year's 10-win campaign. It was a win that solidified the Bears standing last year and quite possibly earned the school and Robert Griffin III his first Heisman trophy. This year's game will not get the Bears to 10 wins, but it has a chance to greatly improve the chances of a 3rd bowl game in a row for the first time in program history.
The past few weeks, the Bears faced a team usually ranked right around them, especially as they fell in the rankings with their 4-game losing streak. They were right around TCU, Texas, Iowa State and finally Kansas. This game will end that pattern as the Sooners are ranked significantly higher than the Bears overall.
In all of the advanced statistics, Oklahoma is an elite team. They are very efficient on both sides of the ball, and present a huge challenge for the Bears. The Sooners have only lost to two of the best teams in the country, Kansas State and Notre Dame (both undefeated and Top 6 in all of these metrics). Baylor, as you would imagine, is much lower ranked across the board and is facing a big challenge.
The Baylor offense still has the statistical edge over the Oklahoma defense, but it is not much of one at all. The Sooners are great at stopping teams for less than what a successful play would get (50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.) while the Bears offense is just as good at gaining those yards. This is the first truly great defense the Bears have faced all year.
The big edge in this game however is when the Bears are on defense. The only good news is that the Baylor defenders rose up one spot from last week. Too bad it was from last to second to the last. The Sooners offense is actually rated better than the Bears according to advanced stats, though it is a minimal advantage. The Sooners strength is on passing downs and by getting the yards that they need.
The convert 47.92% of their third downs, good for 17th in the nation. Their passing offense is the main weapon on 3rd downs. In fact, for 3rd downs, they have attempted a rush on only 27% of the time. This is an efficient and effective offense going up against a defense from Baylor that has really just one good half of football in the conference schedule.
Keys to the Game:
1. Are you shocked to see Turnovers here again?
The Bears finally won the turnover battle again, and what do you know, they won a game. There must be some correlation there. Baylor has to win the turnover battle to win, especially in a game against a very good team like Oklahoma. Landry Jones has shown a propensity to turn the ball over, but most of those performances are on the road. At home, he has been much better, though he does have an interception in each of their losses this year.
2. Keep that running game running:
The Baylor running attack was finally back to what fans became accustomed to the last two seasons in Waco. The Bear runners were slashing through the defense, and gaining big chunks of yards. In Oklahoma's two losses, Notre Dame and Kansas State dominated the running game and pushed the Sooners around. Their defensive tackles are better against the pass than the run, and can struggle at times with physical dominant offensive lines. Baylor has the personnel to do that on the offensive line, but have struggled at times during the season impose their will consistently.
The Bears line is a strength, especially in the middle with regards to the running game. Against Kansas, Glasco Martin took advantage of those rushing lanes up the middle of the defense. With the Sooners on the other side of the ball this weekend, the Bears will have to continue to get those big gains to control the tempo, and give their defense time to rest.
3. Keep Terrance Williams' 10+ catch streak going:
Terrance Williams has had double digit catches in 3 straight games, and for the Bears to pull off the big upset, they will need that type of performance from Williams. He is the best offensive player in this game. Williams is a game-changer and can put the Bears on his back and get them yards, points and first downs. Look for the Bears to continue to involve Williams in the shorter passing game with slants and curls.
4. Get those big plays:
If there is one advantage the Bears offense has over the Sooners offense is big plays.
While Oklahoma has more plays over 10 yards this year, the Bears have a substantial amount more of plays for 20 or 30 plus yards. Baylor's offense is much more explosive on a consistent basis, and averaged almost 2.5 more plays per game over 20 or 30 yards. Baylor has to continue to strike big against a defense that has done a good job limiting big plays. The Sooners defense has allowed the 3rd fewest plays over 10 yards this year, 6th fewest 20+ yard plays, and 13th fewest 30+ yard plays.
5. Make the Sooners one-dimensional:
In their two losses, the Sooners have rushed for 59.25 yards per game, which is 111th in the country for rushing yards per game in losses. Compare that to 216.50 yards per game in wins, and it looks even worse. Baylor has to stop the Sooners rushing attack, which has been inconsistent at best. They have had their great games, but have struggled at times.
Prediction: Bears lose 52-28In my opinion, this is the toughest game on the schedule for the Bears, even tougher than Kansas State. The Bears are traveling to a place they have never won at, and are playing a team that is very motivated due to last year's Baylor victory. The Sooners strength on offense matches up to what the Bears