Meeting their first ranked opponent of the season and hoping to crash the BCS party in the process, the No. 5 Baylor Bears host the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners on Thursday night at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Currently sixth in the BCS standings, a victory for the 7-0 Bears should propel them into the top five with Oregon or Stanford guaranteed to lose in the nation’s other pivotal and highly publicized Thursday night matchup.
Oklahoma could not only knock off Baylor’s chances of making the national title game, but also move up the Big 12 standings into second place for a shot at their ninth conference championship under head coach Bob Stoops since 1999.
Much like the Ducks and Cardinals showdown, a seemingly unstoppable offense meets the country’s 14th ranked defense. Winners of 11 straight, the Bears are first in the nation in passing yards (417.3) and points (63.9) per game, and also boast the sixth best defense (15.9 ppg).
The 7-1 Sooners have shaken off last month’s 36-20 loss to Texas, and have already defeated an undefeated school. Two weeks ago quarterback Blake Bell passed for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and senior rusher Damien Williams gained 97 yards and two more scores on 19 carries to beat previously unblemished Texas Tech, 38-30.
Oklahoma limited Tech’s time of possession with 277 total rushing yards, and allowed a 5-for-14 conversion rate on third down, a strategy that might be employed against the Bears.
Baylor will send out the Big 12’s leading passer and rusher in quarterback Bryce Petty and running back Lache Seastrunk. The 5-foot-10 and 210-pound bruising junior back has six 100-yard rushing games this season. Petty hasn’t thrown for less than 300 yards and two touchdowns, with only one interception, all season.
The Bears have also put up 70 or more points four times this season, but haven’t faced a squad quite like Oklahoma in or out of the Big 12. Baylor’s opponents this year have combined for a 28-31 record, but 17 of those wins come from Wofford, Buffalo, and Louisiana-Monroe. Their Big 12 opponents so far have also combined for a 4-17 conference record.
Both teams have had success stymying opponents on third down with Baylor third (32.8 percent) and Oklahoma fourth (33.9) in the conference, but the Bears have a considerable advantage in their pass rush.
Bears defensive ends Chris McAllister and Jamal Palmer have compiled 9.5 sacks, and the team is second in the Big 12 with 23.0 for a loss of 140 yards. The Sooners are eighth with 14 total sacks, 4.5 from sophomore defensive end Charles Tapper.
Receivers Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese have totaled 1,718 yards and eight touchdowns a apiece off 71 combined receptions for the Bears, but Oklahoma upperclassman defensive backs Gabe Lynn and Julian Wilson should drape them all night. The Sooners tandem has five interceptions between them.
Betting Odds: Baylor favored by 16 points
Over/Under: 74 points
Time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1, check the official site here to find the station on your cable provider.
Prediction: Baylor 40, Oklahoma 33