The Baylor Bears didn’t start the season in the Top 25. Now, they are set to play the biggest game of their season, one that could put them at the forefront of the BCS title picture.
Ranked No. 6, Baylor will host the No.10 Oklahoma Sooners on Thursday in one of the biggest college football games of 2013. The Bears are tied with Texas at 5-0 on the conference, while the Sooners have one loss.
The Bears have overachieved in the eyes of many all season long. They’ve only failed to cover one point spread, blowing out almost every opponent. In their last two games, they have beaten Kansas and Iowa State by a combined 109 points. This week, the betting line has them favored by 15 points over Oklahoma, perhaps proving that they are finally earning the respect they deserve.
"I certainly think that people view us as a legitimate threat," head coach Art Briles said. "Whether we're viewed as the perennial program that this is one that you better watch out for all the time, I don't know. Time will tell on that. But I do think now that we've earned enough respect where when people look at us, they're thinking that's a tough out."
At this point, it would be difficult to recognize how good Baylor has been. They have the most explosive offense in the country, leading the nation with 63.9 points per game, which is over a touchdown more than what Oregon puts up on a weekly basis. The Bears’ offense is led by Bryce Petty, who has become one of the top Heisman Trophy candidates.
The quarterback has thrown 18 touchdowns and just one interception in 2013. He has completed 69.3 percent of his passes for 2,453 yards in his first year as the starter. Petty joined Baylor in 2011, a year in which they beat Oklahoma.
“For me, personally, it was the moment that the program changed," Petty said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “I think that’s when we knew that we could play with anybody. It didn’t matter who it was and it wasn’t one of those deals when you see Baylor on the schedule and you go ahead and put a win next to it. That was very exciting for us. It was one of our first games that was a hype environment and we came through.”
If any team in the Big 12 can slow down Baylor, it might be Oklahoma. They’ve held opponents to 18.8 points per game, good for 14th in the nation. The Sooner, though, haven’t been as good in conference play, allowing 30 points in their last game to Texas Tech and surrendering 36 in their loss to Texas on Oct.12.
"If we play 90-100 snaps (on defense), it's not good," defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "You can't win a game, I don't believe, playing Baylor if we have to play 90-100 snaps. That's not a game that you want to be in. You hope your offense can control the football and you can control the tempo of the game.
Baylor will be forced to face a new challenge if the contest is close for most of the way. The Bears are a 45-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, and Petty has thrown the ball just four times in the final 15 minutes of each game.
Prediction: Baylor 38, Oklahoma 31