5-Things: Baylor vs Oklahoma

The 7-1 Baylor Bears go on the road looking to keep their Big 12 Championship and National Championship hopes alive against the 6-2 Oklahoma Sooners.

1. The top-2 teams according to every preseason poll and ranking get together Saturday morning for a game of football, with the Baylor Bears and Oklahoma Sooners both looking to keep their Big 12 championship hopes alive. The Sooners, with 2 losses already, are already on the ropes, but could get back into the Big 12 race with a few wins and a lot of luck. They have already lost to TCU and Kansas State, who also meet each other Saturday. Oklahoma lost to Kansas State three Saturdays ago at home, giving the Bears some hope that Norman, OK isn't an impenetrable force that no one can ever escape with a victory.

2. The Sooners are at their best when their running game is in full force. Starting running back Keith Ford has been limited to just 3 games this season, as freshman Samaje Perine has taken over the lead back role. Perine is a 240-pound plus runner, who runs like he has another 40 pounds of armor on. He is averaging over 5 yards per carry and leads the team with 767 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Sooners should be welcoming back Ford though, as he is starting to get back to full health, so don't count him out of the lineup just yet. The other large component of the Sooners rushing attack is quarterback Trevor Knight. The 2nd year starter has had another up and down season, though his highs have been better than in 2013. Knight is coming off of a season high 146 yards rushing and added 3 touchdowns as well. The Sooners ran for over 500 yards against Iowa State, averaging over 8 yards per carry.

With Keith Gord possibly coming back, the Sooners could still be missing a large part of their offense in wide receiver Sterling Shephard. The Sooners star receiver was injured in the 1st quarter of their win over Iowa State, on an acrobatic 46-yards catch. His availability will be a big key for how the Sooners attack the Bears down the field. Shepard is one of the best deep threats in teh Big 12, and the Bears have struggled mightily with that type of player. If Shephard can't come back from his strain (reports are saying a groin strain, but nothing official), the Sooners will be without a big piece to their vertical passing attack.

3. As Trevor Knight has had an up and down season, so has the Sooners offense as a whole. Against TCU, the Oklahoma rushing attack disappeared as they could only muster 3.62 yards per carry. They were slightly better against Kansas State running the ball (198 yards and 4.71 yards per carry) but a -2 turnover margin and a missed extra point were primary reasons for the 31-30 loss.

This is still the 2nd best offense the Bears have seen all year, second only to TCU. While the Horned Frog passing attack was the bulk of the issue with TCU, the Sooners are a little more balanced. They are 15th in rushing yards per attempt in the nation at 5.7 yards, 42nd in the nation in passing yards per game, and 19th overall in offensive yards per game. The weakness of the OU offense is their short passing game, as Trevor Knight has struggled with accuracy for most of the year. He completed just 40% of his passes in their loss to TCU, though the big plays were there for OU.

4. The Sooners strengths on offense are also the same on defense. This is a very good run defense, ranking as a Top-20 defense in terms of yards per rush and rushing yards per game. They play a 3-man front for four ferocious linebackers behind them. This defense is very similar to West Virginia's, except more talented in the front-7. The star is linebacker Eric Striker, one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12. He is an outright nuisance to offenses, leading the Sooners with 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Along side him are two sure-tackling linebackers in Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans. Both are averaging over 7 tackles per game for Oklahoma.

Their front three is big and strong with all three over 280 pounds. Charles Tapper and Chuka Ndulue are the outside with Jordan Phillips manning the nose tackle position. All three are very strong at the point of attack and do a great job of letting the four linebackers behind them make plays in the open field.

5. The weakness though is their pass defense. While Striker is an incredible pass rusher, they don't have a great blitz to pressure quarterbacks. They only get a sack on 6.12% of drop-backs (57th in the nation), and most of their pass rush is manufactured by scheme, rather than them just lining up and beating the man across from them. Their secondary also hasn't helped them a bunch either, with Julian Wilson and Zack Sanchez both struggling at times this season. Sanchez appears to be a big play kind of guy, big for the Sooners or the opposition. He has a team high 5 interceptions, but has been picked on quite a bit this year.


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