OSU vs. The Big 12: Baylor Bears

The last two parts of this series will be sobering, but that's okay. Say what you want but Baylor has worked their butts off to get their program right up there at the top of the Big 12 and they actually won a Big 12 championship prior to getting into a new stadium. Baylor is legit and I believe they will be legit for a long time.

They have owned Texas in recent years, just like Oklahoma State. Again, just like Oklahoma State, the Bears have really had just a little success against Oklahoma.

I believe that Art Briles and his staff, and I don't know what their basic parameters or principles are, have recruited with the same hard work, heavy evaluation, and effort that Oklahoma State, TCU, and Kansas State have in making themselves into upper division and contending programs in the league.

Now as far as the matchup if they played today. Quarterback Bryce Petty combined with Shock Linwood at running back and Antwan Goodley at wide receiver give the Bears a potential "triplets" situation on offense.

The loss of highly touted Robbie Rhodes (dismissed from the team) at receiver hurts only a little as Baylor has good depth there with the likes of Levi Norwood, Corey Coleman, Jay Lee, and Clay Fuller. On the offensive line the Bears lost ALl-American Cyril Richardson at guard, but they will start two seniors, two juniors, and a third-year sophomore with Spencer Drango expected to be a candidate for honors. Drango did miss the spring with a back injury suffered late last season. He had surgery and backs can be a tough injury to recover fully from.

The experience at quarterback and the explosiveness at skill positions is a major concern because of the lack of experience on the back seven of the Oklahoma State defense. Playing Baylor today could be a disaster, but let's check back on the development of the young linebackers and safeties to see where the Cowboys are in mid-November when they actually go to Waco.

The Cowboys best play in this matchup is to work very hard to dominate the Bears up front and put lots of pressure on Petty. That strategy worked well last season with veterans manning the Oklahoma State defense in the front and the back. This time heavy pressure up front may be needed to ease the inexperience on the back.

I don't want to paint this as a picture where OSU has no chance. The Bears will be young on defense as they graduated a lot of talent as they only return four starters although Aiavion Edwards did start games late in the season at linebacker and added in he would make it five.

Despite losing a number of players, Briles said he would match his front seven with any in the nation. Shawn Oakman is a big pass rusher returning at defensive end and Beau Blackshear is a proven commodity at defensive tackle. Add to that linebacker Bryce Hager, one of my favorite defenders in the Big 12, and despite the newcomers it is solid. The big difference in the 4-2-5 alignment is that both linebackers have experience.

The Bears greatest concern has to be on the back end where only safety Terrell Burt returns as a starter. Senior safety Collin Brence has waited his turn and the rest of the new starters are sophomores, including both corners.

That combination could be as difficult a matchup for the Bears with the Oklahoma State offense as it is for the Cowboys defense with the Bears. J.W. Walsh would need to take advantage of the Bears youth and inexperience with the Cowboys multitude of playmakers in the skill positions.

I would have to favor Baylor over OSU, and I look at the Bears and Oklahoma as the top two candidates to win the Big 12. But Baylor has concerns as well. It is still a much different day in Waco and at Baylor where concerns not too many years ago included whether they could win nearly half their games. Now it's how to avoid losing any.

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