The explosive offense of the No. 4 Baylor Bears (8-0, Big-12 6-0) host the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners (8-1, 5-1), who boast the Big 12's best defense, with at least a share of conference supremacy on the line. No college football game in Week 11 will carry as much weight as Saturday's showdown in Waco.
In the absence of a conference title game, the Bears and the Sooners must keep pace with undefeated and freshly minted No. 5 Oklahoma State and a loss could spell trouble for both programs. Baylor and head coach Art Briles slipped two spots in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll after beating rival Kansas State by only a touchdown -- by far the Bears lowest margin of victory after blasting opponents by an average of 36 points in the previous seven games.
The Bears’ chances of cracking the top four in the second-round of the College Football Playoff rankings also took a big hit, but their incredible and nation-best 57 points per game still make them one of the country’s elite programs.
Considering the Sooners overwhelmed and blanked Kansas State 55-0 on the road nearly a month ago, they would seem like obvious choices to supplant Baylor and No. 13 TCU as the Cowboys' main rival. But head coach Bob Stoops’ crew were dealt a punishing 24-17 home loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry matchup back on Oct. 10 and they’ve tried ever since to get back in the good graces of pollsters.
Oklahoma’s defense, No. 1 in the Big-12 and 16th overall in the country with 18.1 points allowed per game, responded to the Texas loss by kicking down Kansas State and have won four straight to climb two places in the AP poll. But the Sooners have to overcome the Bears, TCU Horned Frogs, and Cowboys over the next three weeks to make any noise in the CFP rankings.
Much of Baylor’s postseason hopes were riding on the shoulders of freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who proceeded to throttle the Wildcats for 419 passing yards and three touchdowns with another on the ground in the first start of his career in place of the injured Seth Russell.
But now Stidham duels a Sooners pass defense that’s racked up 12 interceptions, tied for second-best in the conference, and has allowed only 11 scores and 178.6 yards per game.
Stidham does have Big-12 leading rusher and junior running back Shock Linwood to ease some of the pressure, but he struggled for a season-low 72 yards on 13 attempts against Kansas State and next draws a Sooners defense that’s allowed eight rushing scores all season.
Oklahoma and junior quarterback Baker Mayfield have also showed they aren’t afraid of a shootout. The Sooners are tied for second in the country with 46 points per game, and Mayfield’s completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,812 yards and 28 touchdowns to only four interceptions, most recently torching Iowa State for his fifth 300-plus yard game of the year.
Yet the Bears’ secondary isn’t too far behind Oklahoma’s. Powered by Big-12 interception leader and junior cornerback Xavien Howard, Baylor’s second in the conference with 223.8 passing yards allowed per game.
The Sooner’s will likely try to get sophomore running back Samaje Perine going early. He’s totaled 185 yards and three touchdowns in the last two games, and before that scorched Texas Tech for 201 yards and four scores.
Betting Odds: Baylor opened at -7 but it’s since shifted down to -3
Prediction: Oklahoma over Baylor, 42-37