SITE: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
SERIES: Oklahoma State leads 16-12 (last meeting, 2009, Oklahoma State 34-7)
RECORDS: Baylor 7-2, 4-1; Oklahoma State 7-1, 3-1
POLLS: Baylor (22 AP, 22 USA Today); Oklahoma State (19 AP, 18 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State, 42-38
KEYS TO THE GAME:
For Baylor: Strike quickly. If that doesn't work, the Bears may be better off controlling the clock because a much shorter game works to Baylor's advantage. The Cowboys can win games with the pass or the run depending on what the defense gives them.
For Oklahoma State: Prepare for a shootout. Containing Baylor QB Robert Griffin is problematic because he can also escape the pocket for big yardage, and his 20 touchdown throws this season average 41.7 yards. But OSU is capable of matching Baylor's production behind QB Brandon Weeden, RB Kendall Hunter, and WR Justin Blackmon.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
With QB Robert Griffin running the show, Baylor has shown it can score with the best of them. Even when the offense isn't at its best -- as was the case last week when the Bears accumulated just 328 yards against Texas -- they still were able to produce 30 points. RB Jay Finley has three consecutive 100-yard rushing games, including a 250-yard outburst two weeks ago against Kansas State. In their game last week against Kansas State, Oklahoma State held the Wildcats to just 3.9 yards per play. But the Cowboys will have to be very disciplined if they have designs on beating the Bears.
Considering the competition, the Bears had their most impressive defensive performance of the year last week against Texas. The Longhorns reached the Baylor 4-, 9-, 14-, 23- and 32-yard lines on separate occasions, yet came away with only five field goals against Baylor's sticky defense. It was the type of defensive display the Bears hope they'll be able to deliver the rest of the season. The Bears will be severely challenged against Oklahoma State, which has arguably of the best trio in the nation in QB Brandon Weeden, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Justin Blackmon.
Playing without WR Justin Blackmon last week, Oklahoma State still showed its usual explosiveness at Kansas State, though much of the production came in the middle of the field. The Oklahoma State offense managed just two touchdowns and a field goal, though QB Brandon Weeden was sharp and the running game was again effective with RB Kendall Hunter staying fresh because of the production offered by freshman RB Joseph Randle. A shootout is possible against Baylor, so the Cowboys need all their threats. The return of Blackmon and WR Tracy Moore will help.
Though young, the Oklahoma State defense is aggressive to the ball, makes good reads and can also get sticky in coverage. That was the case when it limited Kansas State to fewer than 300 yards, with a 3.9-yard average per play. LB Orie Lemon has provided consistent leadership, though the defense is beginning to feature other standouts. Among them is freshman LB Shaun Lewis. Avoiding mistakes is still critical. During one five-play sequence at Kansas State, the Cowboys were flagged for roughing the passer, a personal foul and for having 12 men on the field.
Bears: The Bears have seven wins entering the month of November for the first time since 1985, when they finished with a 9-3 record. Baylor was 7-1 entering November that year, then went 2-2 down the stretch, including a 21-7 win over LSU in the Liberty Bowl. The Bears are bowl eligible for first time since 1995. They finished 7-4 that season but did not receive a postseason bid. ... The Bears have four wins in Big 12 play for the first time. The three-game winning streak is their longest in the Big 12 era and longest overall in conference play since they won three in row in the old Southwest Conference back in 1992. ... Baylor is 28-of-35 in red-zone opportunities this year. That includes 15 touchdowns and 13 field goals. ... In Big 12 games only, Baylor leads the conference in scoring with 40.2 ppg. ... The Bears have scored more points in five conference games (201) than they did in all eight of their Big 12 games last year (104). ... QB Robert Griffin III has 13 pass plays of 40 yards or more with 10 of them going for touchdowns. He is the Big 12 leader in total offense in conference games only (373.0 ypg).
Cowboys: WR Justin Blackmon will play against Baylor after serving a one-game suspension following his arrest for a misdemeanor DUI citation. WR Tracy Moore will also be back on offense. Moore was a passenger in the incident involving Blackmon and, for that, he was allowed to play on only special teams against Kansas State. ... RB Kendall Hunter is third in the country in rushing with 1,174 yards and 12 touchdowns on 189 carries, and Blackmon is second in the country in receiving yards (1,112 yards on 62 catches) despite missing last week's game against Kansas State. ... The most successful three-year spans in Oklahoma State history each consisted of 26 victories. They happened from 1983-85 and 1986-88. With another win, the Cowboys would reach that mark for the past three seasons. ... Freshman LB Shaun Lewis got his first start last week against Kansas State and responded with eight tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage. ... Junior S Johnny Thomas has 20 tackles over his last three games after getting 14 through the first five outings. He had six stops, a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown, and two pass breakups in the win over Kansas State.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
S Byron Landor -- He was chosen as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks. Against Texas last week, Landor contributed 15 tackles, including nine solo stops. He becomes the first Baylor player named Defensive Player of the Week twice in the same season.
QB Robert Griffin III -- He is responsible for 27 of Baylor's 35 offensive touchdowns this season. He has thrown 20 TD passes and run for seven touchdowns.
RB Jay Finley -- He rushed for more yards (393) recently against Colorado and Kansas State than he did in the nine games he played in last year (370).
WR Bo Bowling -- With the Oklahoma State receiving corps missing three top targets because of injuries and suspensions, the senior proved capable by establishing career bests for receptions (eight) and yards (92) at Kansas State.
RB Kendall Hunter -- The 100-yard performance at Kansas State was the 18th for Hunter in his career, one more than Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders managed for the Cowboys. Hunter ranks third nationally with a 146.7-yard average per game.
P Quinn Sharp -- His capability to kick directionally makes Sharp even more impressive. He pinned Kansas State inside its own 10-yard line four times. His 47-yard season average ranks fifth nationally.
Bears: LB Elliot Coffey (ankle, questionable), CB Chance Casey (leg, questionable), DL Terrance Lloyd (knee, doubtful).
Cowboys: WR Hubert Anyiam (ankle, questionable), CB Justin Gilbert (ankle, probable).