OSU-Baylor: Matchups and Prediction

STILLWATER - It's been very interesting this week hearing and reading all the subplots heading into Saturday's road contest with Baylor in Waco. Let's count the potential bulletin board material in the air this week.

1. Last year's game. With the game in the bag Oklahoma State's talented and troubled freshman Prentiss Elliot took off with a fourth quarter punt and went the distance for a "forget me not" touchdown for the winners. Baylor's sidelines, upset with the score, came out after the ensuing kickoff and threw deep resulting in a touchdown. OSU offensive coordinator Mike Gundy, down on the field from the press box, reportedly encouraged Les Miles to reciprocate and the Cowboys did for the final margin of 49-21. This week Baylor defensive coordinator Bill Bradley has used the late score as a rallying cry, saying his players better remember it.

2. Only because it falls in line with the above has it got to be mentioned that Baylor is not new OSU head coach Mike Gundy's favorite school. Gundy left OSU to become the passing coordinator in 1996 for then Baylor head coach Chuck Reedy. After a 5-6 season the Baylor administration canned Reedy and staff and hired Dave Roberts, who held the former Reedy assistants hostage promising to consider them for jobs. Instead, he had them recruit by phone while he hired his future staff. Gundy was pretty incensed by the process. Baylor paid for it as two coaches flunked at turning Baylor into a winner before Guy Morriss and his staff have shown recent promise.

3. The billboard went up near Floyd Casey Stadium and the Baylor campus and immediately caught Bears head coach Guy Morriss' attention. The billboard featured the Cowboys running out on the field and Mike Gundy pointing with the caption "I want you at OSU." Called part of a season ticket campaign the billboard was strategically placed where it might catch the attention of a certain recruit.

The billboard is now down, but the feelings of last year and the OSU-Waco season ticket campaign will likely exist right up until kickoff and then it will be time to play football. Bulletin board material doesn't win football games. Baylor wants to finish 5-6 with its best record in Big 12 history, and end a nine-game losing streak to the Cowboys. OSU wants to push on toward a possible winning season and a bowl bid off the momentum of the upset win over Texas Tech last Saturday.

Key Matchups
OSU Offensive Coordinator Larry Fedora vs. Baylor Defensive Coordinator Bill Bradley

The hint all week from Waco is that Baylor (11th in the Big 12 in rushing defense) is willing to go to extremes to stop the OSU run game. That implies committing the safeties, or at least one of the safeties, and running cover one or zero in the secondary. Fedora gets to see and then respond. The response might be to max protect and run two receiver routes getting one-on-one coverage. Let the chess game begin.

OSU wide receiver D'Juan Woods vs. Baylor cornerback C.J. Wilson
If the above comes true then Woods gets one-on-one coverage and given a decent amount of time Bobby Reid should be able to hit Woods for significant gains. Woods hasn't seen one-on-one attention all season and still gets his catches. Wilson, who might get the chore at times, leads the Big 12 in interceptions with five this season. Baylor has a good secondary, but if the Bears commit to the run, it would be tough to cover Woods solo.

OSU Offensive Line vs. Baylor Defensive Front
Run or pass this is where the game is won. OSU needs to run the ball, but the Cowboys may have to pass to set up the run or loosen up the Bears defense. Baylor is more experienced, but the Bears are not dominant up front. OSU has been dominant on the offensive line, even against Big 12 King Kong Texas. They must be dominant again as OSU is fourth in the conference in rushing offense and fifth in sacks against. This has to be a win for the Cowboys.

OSU free safety Donovan Woods vs. Baylor QB Shawn Bell
The biggest concern for the OSU defense is the freelance ability of starting Baylor quarterback Bell. He is excellent on improvising. The Cowboys have to have that covered. Woods gets to let his quarterback experience help him on the defensive side as he tries to help his teammates on defense by reading the mind of Bell.

This thing will go one of two ways, easy or rough. Baylor has to be fragile after losing its bowl chance in a 31-16 loss at Missouri last week. Baylor has lost five in arow, same predicament OSU was in going into the Tech game, except Baylor didn't have the confidence OSU had from a solid effort against Texas. Texas clobbered Baylor 62-0. If OSU jumps on the Bears early this could be a blowout, but if Baylor jumps out or it's an even contest then this thing comes down to the wire with the Cowboys hoping for a chance to strike the final blow like they had against the Red Raiders. I won't be surprised either way on this one. Baylor has been tough in Waco for much better OSU teams in the past.

Oklahoma State 28, Baylor 20

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