In the Trenches: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State

As the Baylor Bears and Oklahoma State Cowboys prepare to face each other in a monumentally important Big 12 battle, BearsIllustrated.com breaks down the competition that will take place in the trenches.

In recent weeks, part of the reason for the success of the Baylor Bears has been the improved play along both its offensive and defensive lines. Whether it has been something easily fixable such as a reduction in penalties to something much more abstract such as improved cohesion, the Baylor lines seem to be causing problems for opponents. But as we start to breakdown the offensive and defensive line of Oklahoma State, it is clear this will be a tough matchup for the improved Baylor lines.

Baylor Offense vs. Oklahoma State Defense

The Baylor offense has been anchored all season by an athletic front 5 that has seen Danny Watkins and Ivory Wade at the tackle positions, Philip Blake under center, and Cameron Kaufhold and Robert T. Griffin at the guard slots. Cyril Richardson has had plenty of playing time at guard as well, as has John Jones. This unit has created plenty of holes for Baylor running back Jay Finley in recent weeks, and although they gave up 3 sacks to Texas, has been more than adequate in pass protection this season, ranking 22nd nationally in sacks allowed.

On Saturday, Baylor's offensive linemen will be matched up against a talented front 4 from Oklahoma State, littered with former Baylor recruits and headlined by one such former recruit, Ugo Chinasa. Chinasa is a 6'5", 255lb senior from Richardson, Texas, and marks 1 of 3 starting defensive lineman for the Cowboys originally from Texas. Chinasa was one of the few defensive lineman for Oklahoma State on preseason watch and awards lists, and followed that up in Week 5 with Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. In Week 5, Chinasa had a big game against fellow Big 12 South opponent Texas A&M, finishing with 6 tackles, including 3 for a loss and an interception.

In addition to Chinasa, look for 6'3", 263lb Jamie Blatnick (Celina, TX) or 6'3", 270lb Richetti Jones (Dallas, TX) to man the other end spot. Inside, Oklahoma State will start with Chris Donaldson (6-1, 296) and Shane Jarka (6-3, 298lbs, Sugar Land, TX), and be backed up by Cooper Bassett (6-5, 264) and Nigel Nicholas (6-3, 277).

Blatnick is coming off a career high 5 tackles against Kansas State, and will be one of the parties responsible for keeping contain against Robert Griffin. Between Blatnick, Jones and Chinasa, the Cowboys will hope to use their athleticism to make someone other than Robert Griffin beat them on the ground. On the inside, Donaldson has started every game for the Cowboys this season, while Jarka has seen starts in 5 games thus far, including the last 3.

Overall, the Oklahoma State defense is ranked 9th in the Big 12 in scoring defense, but 4th in rushing defense. No doubt teams have had to play catch-up to the Cowboys, and that probably accounts for part of the reason Oklahoma State is ranked 11th in pass defense, pro-rated to 8th for pass efficiency defense.

One thing to watch for in the trenches when Baylor is on offense is whether Baylor's line can continue to give time for plays to develop downfield. Between their current starting 4, Oklahoma State only has 4 total quarterback hurries on the season, although they have come up with 7/8 sacks depending on who you count as the starter. By the numbers, the Bears are certainly facing a less stout defense than they saw in Austin last week, so you may see Baylor's offense light up the scoreboard a little more.

Oklahoma State Offense vs. Baylor Defense

The Baylor defensive line has gone through a lot of changes this season, with the only constant being senior Phil Taylor and underclassman Gary Mason, Jr. Injuries have forced defensive coordinator Brian Norwood to constantly adjust his starting rotation, but when healthy, the Baylor defensive line has been able to be productive in certain games.

With backup defensive tackle Chris Buford returning last game, the Bears finally have some depth again at the tackle spot. Taylor has been joined most often on the inside by Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, although Tracy Robertson (recently back from injury) started the year lined up next to him. Look for Robertson and fellow hybrid Zac Scotten to continue to get looks both on the inside and out. With the talented Kendall Hunter running the ball, Baylor may need to go with its best run stopping tacklers for much of the game. Whether or not they decide they need to bring more pressure, you can expect to see ends Gary Mason, Jr. and Tevin Elliot on the field for the Bears.

Much like the defensive line, you'll find plenty of Texas talent littering the Oklahoma State offensive line, with 6 of the players on the 10 man 2-deep coming from the Lone Star State.

Starting the game, you should see Nick Martinez (6-4, 315) and Levy Adcock (6-5,318) at the tackle spots, Jonathan Rush (6-4, 308) and Lane Taylor (6-3, 315) at the guards, and Grant Garner (6-3, 291) at Center. Much like Baylor's offensive line, the vast majority of the guys lining up for the Cowboys easily top 300 pounds.

Looking through the Oklahoma State offensive production this year, it is clear the Baylor defensive line will be tested. Not only does Oklahoma State ranked 25th nationally in sacks allowed, but more importantly they are in the top 5 nationally in passing offense, total offense, and scoring offense. Their pass efficiency rating is 15th nationally, which means their unit is clicking almost all the time. This was a unit that was supposed to be down a bit after losing 1st round NFL draft pick Russell Okung, but clearly they have not missed a beat.

Guard Lane Taylor is really the only Cowboy getting specific recognition for his work, being named to several preseason all-conference lists in addition to a few midseason lists as well (including notably 2nd team All-American by SI.com), but we are not so sure that you don't have to give credit to the entire line unit for what the Oklahoma State offense is doing this season.

With games against Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas still on the horizon, it's not clear how good the Cowboys will finish the regular season statistically, but having put up 41 points against Nebraska, it is doubtful Coach Gundy is too worried about it.

Who has the edge?

Despite some standout individual performances by members of both defensive lines, it is clear the 2 offensive lines for the Bears and Cowboys have the edge going into Saturday. Oklahoma State did not put up video game numbers against Kansas State, but they have against pretty much every other opponent this season. Meanwhile, Baylor has one of its best offenses in its history, and after putting up 30 on the Texas Longhorns in Austin, they will try to keep the momentum going in Stillwater. Look for both offensive lines to control their counterparts in this game, with one caveat. If either team can control the ground game with their front 4, that team will have a big advantage as they are able to drop more linebackers into coverage to slow down these two prolific passing attacks.

Keep it tuned to BearsIllustrated.com as we get you ready for the Baylor Bears at Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday.


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