Coming off of their first loss of the 2015 football season, the Baylor Bears travel north up to Stillwater, Oklahoma to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys Saturday evening. The 6th ranked Cowboys are unbeaten this year, and are in the driver's seat for a Big 12 title, and possibly a spot in the College Football Playoff. With home games against Baylor and rival Oklahoma to close the year, the Cowboys can make a big statement Saturday night.
Stillwater has been rather unkind to the Bears, who have not won a true road game against Oklahoma State since 1939. The Bears have visited Stillwater 11 times since their last victory, and have lost badly in most of the games. Most recently, a 49-17 win that was the Bears lone regular season loss in 2013. In the four games Art Briles has coached in Stillwater for the Bears, he has lost 49.25 to 18.75. It has been ugly for Baylor, there is no other way to describe it.
The Bears are slight favorites according to the advanced metrics. They rose in a few of the metrics with their "quality-loss" to Oklahoma, while Oklahoma State is riding their perfect record up to a higher spots in the polls than the computers are going to give them credit for. Closer wins over Texas, Kansas State, West Virginia and Iowa State are holding the Cowboys back. It gets even sillier when you think of HOW they beat Texas (Texas punter fumbling the snap and setting up the winning score) and Kansas State (a few gifted calls by the officials). Still though, the Pokes were dominant at home in their first big test of the 2015 season, a 49-29 demolishing of TCU.
Players to Watch
Emmanuel Ogbah - Junior Defensive End
The Big 12's best defensive player of 2015, Ogbah is the best pass rusher in the conference, and one of the best in the nation. He has 11 sacks on the year, and 15.5 tackles for loss. Both of those are in the top-10 in the nation. He had 11 sacks last year, and 4 in his freshman season. The man gets to the quarterback, and usually gets him down.
Mason Rudolph - Sophomore Quarterback
One of the top young quarterbacks in teh Big 12, Rudolph is a proto-typical pocket passer with a good arm. He has completed over 64% of his passes on the year, and has a solid 18/8 touchdown to interception ratio. He has very good size at 6-foot-4, and uses it well. Not a threat with his legs at all, rushing over 26 total yards on the season.
James Washington - Sophomore Wide Receiver
The Cowboys leading receiver, Washington is a big play threat that has broken out during conference play. He broke out against Texas Tech, gaining 200 yards and scoring 2 touchdowns. He might have been even better the next week against TCU, catching 3 touchdown passes to go along with 184 yards.
Jimmy Bean - Senior Defensive End/Tackle
The other big piece to one of the best defensive lines in the Big 12, Bean is second on the team in sacks with 5.5 and 10.5 tackles for loss. He is a swing defender, able to slid inside on passing downs and outside on standard downs.
Keys to the Game
1. Take Away the Run Game - This is a bad rushing attack for Oklahoma State. They average just 3.83 yards per rush attempt on the year, and rank 95th in the nation in rushing yards per game at 144.60. The advanced stats look even ugglier, where S&P+ ranks them 118th in the nation in run Rushing S&P+. Junior Chris Carson is their top back, rushing for over 400 yards. However, their best threat in the run game is backup quarterback JW Walsh, who usually comes into the game for short yardage, or redzone opportunities. Walsh has 10 rushing touchdowns on the year, and is a very good rushing threat.
The Bears have struggled against mobile quarterbacks in 2015. Starter Mason Rudolph is not a threat with his legs at all, but Walsh is. Could this be a game where the Cowboys lean more heavily on their senior quarterback?
2. Protect Stidham - The Cowboys have one of the best pass rushes in the Big 12. They are tied with Oklahoma for 4th in the nation in sacks (35). They are a team designed to attack the passing games of the opposition aggressively. They rank 29th in the nation in havoc rate on passind downs (% of plays with sack, QB Hurry, interception, fumble) as opposed to 102 on standard downs. When the opposition attempts a pass, 33.5% of the time, the Cowboys have something really good happen for them, and it starts with their suberp defensive line. Emmanuel Ogbah is a star. The Bears offensive line, led by left tackle Spencer Drango, will have to play their best game of the year.
However, the Bears will also need their running game to step up and take the pressure off of Stidham (or Chris Johnson, if Stidham's back injury keeps him out of the game). Shock Linwood struggled against Oklahoma last week, especially after the first drive of the game. Without their running attack hitting on all cylinders, the Bears offense goes from elite to just good. The Cowboys are much stronger against the pass than they are against the run. They allow 157.5 yards per game on the ground (55th in the nation) and 3.76 yards per rush. They rank 42nd in Rushing S&P+ (compared to 24th against the pass). Baylor will have to run the ball much more effectively this week to give themselves a chance.
3. Win the Red Zone - Oklahoma State has been tremendous in the red-zone so far in 2015. They have 34 touchdowns on their 48 trips inside the 20-yard line. They have scored on 45 trips, the 7th best rate in the nation. The Baylor defense is on the other end of the specturm, giving up scores on 24 of 27 trips (105th worst rate). They have given up touchdowns on 19 of those trips. The Baylor defense has to get some key stops against a very good red-zone offense.
On the flip side, the Baylor offense ranks just 20th in scores (46 of 51) but is #1 in the nation at scoring touchdowns on 78% of their drives inside the opponents 20-yard line, with OSU 13th. The Cowboys defense is just 77th in the nation, allowing touchdowns on 61.29% of chances in the red-zone.
If the Bears can get a few touchdowns, and hold OSU to a field goal or two, that would be a tremendous win in a very tough environemtn.
Massey Ratings – Bears lose 42-41
RealTime RPI – Bears lose 42-33
S&P+ Rating - Bears win 36-34
Vegas Line - Even (Over/Under - 78)
Staff Predictions COMING SOON!