Back in 1901, the Oklahoma Sooners dispatched of the Baylor Bears, 17-6, in Waco. The two programs would not meet again until 1973. During the interim, Oklahoma grew to national prominence, while Baylor battled inconsistency.
Since 1996, these two programs have met every year, though the balance of power has hardly shifted. Oklahoma has beaten Baylor in 20 of the 21 games played between the two schools. The Bears first, and only, win in this series came in 2011.
Can coach Art Briles’ program make it two-out-of-three, and turn the tide of this conference rivalry? Even at No. 5 in the nation, undefeated, and favored to beat the Sooners at home, winning may not be easy on Thursday night.
Oklahoma, at 7-1, boasts a quarterback in Blake Bell who has struggled at times. He has, however, seen big-game action this year, facing Notre Dame, Texas, and Texas Tech.
Baylor’s Bryce Petty, on the other hand, is flourishing in his first season starting under center. The junior averages 350.4 passing yards per game, good for fourth in the nation. He has thrown 18 touchdowns compared to just one interception, resulting in a 219.01 passer rating – the very top mark in the entire country.
However, he has put those numbers up against a weak schedule. The only conference games his team has played have been against West Virginia, Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas. Oklahoma will be, far and away, the best team he has faced.
Will he be able to complete passes to Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese (combined 71 receptions; 1,718 yards; and 16 touchdowns) against senior defensive backs Gabe Lynn and Aaron Colvin?
That may depend on whether he has time to throw the football. Charles Tapper is a 6-foot-4, 261-pound force at defensive end. Baylor, of course, boasts All-American candidate Cyril Richardson along a stout offensive line, so Petty may not have to leave his comfort zone very much.
That will be especially true if star running back Lache Seastrunk comes prepared to slay another giant. Last year, the Oregon transfer’s 185-yard outburst helped the Bears upset then-No. 1, undefeated Kansas State.
If he can find running lanes against Tapper and linebackers Frank Shannon and Dominique Alexander, the Bears may just find themselves undefeated and inching closer to the BCS National Championship Game.
That is, if an improved, but not quite there, defense can handle the Belldozer. The Sooners’ signal-caller, at 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds, is built like a linebacker. Against Notre Dame and Texas Tech, he made all the necessary throws. However, he can also be rattled. In the team’s one loss, the Red River Rivalry to Texas, Bell threw two of his three interceptions on the season. He was sacked four times, as well.
The Bears’ defensive linemen Chris McAllister and Jamal Palmer have combined for 9.5 sacks on the year. Can they break through on Thursday night? Will they be able to bring big Bell down?
If so, perhaps coach Bob Stoops can rely on his run game. Seniors Brennan Clay and Damien Williams have received nearly equal shares of the workload. With 90 and 97 carries, respectively, they have tallied respectable rushing totals of 538 and 412 yards.
If Oklahoma slows down Baylor’s warp-speed offense, it will be a result of Clay and Williams. Will they be able to get it going against a Bears defense that only gives up an average of 138.7 rushing yards per game?
Can Briles’ defense keep it up, or will Baylor’s offense be forced to win this game in a shootout.
Is Baylor a legitimate national title contender? Or will Oklahoma, once again, beat the resurgent Bears?
We have no idea what the answers are, but perhaps you do. It’s time to Settle It.