OSU-Baylor: Key Matchups & Prediction

Robert Allen offers his key matchups and prediction for Saturday's game between the 14th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Baylor Bears at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco. Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m. (Central time)

It is the 77th version of homecoming at Baylor where homecoming means a lot just like it does at Oklahoma State. Instead of the walk around, it is the homecoming parade that draws the most attention at Baylor and it will get started at 8 a.m. Saturday in Waco.

Because it is homecoming, because the Bears are coming off a disappointing loss to Iowa State, and because it is midseason and with a 3-3 record, Baylor's players realize they need three wins out of the next six games that include road games at Missouri and Texas A&M, a neutral site game with Texas Tech, and home games with OSU, Nebraska, and Texas. The Bears realize they better get cracking.

Meanwhile, for the Cowboys this is a trap game between their homecoming with Missouri and a potential showdown game with Texas at the Boone. That showdown doesn't measure up unless the Cowboys handle their business.

There are a couple of factors working in the Cowboys favor. First, two starters, senior cornerback Perrish Cox and safety Victor Johnson, are from Waco. They will impart on their teammates how important this "homecoming" is for them.

Second, and even more advantageous, is that the Cowboys are without Dez Bryant, and while Kendall Hunter is expected to make the trip he will likely play little, if any at all. That keeps the Cowboys humble and knowing they still have a lot to prove even to themselves. As head coach Mike Gundy said this week they cannot take anything for granted.

Key Matchups

1. Oklahoma State run offense
vs. Baylor defensive front seven and Jordan Lake
Before the Missouri game lasts week I asked defensive coordinator Bill Young a question I thought was smart, and following Young's answer and in preparing this week for the Baylor game, I now realize was smarter than I even thought at the time.

I asked Young if the game with Texas A&M against a big quarterback that prefers to throw like Jerrod Johnson was good preparation for a Missouri offense quarterbacked by another pass jumbo quarterback in Blaine Gabbert. Young said every game this season was good preparation for the rest of the season. Sure it is, you get better every game or at least you are supposed to.

That leads us to this match up, the OSU running game versus the Baylor front seven. Teams have run on Baylor a bunch the last two weeks with defensive tackle Phil Taylor out nursing a turf toe. With Taylor or not, and knowing that Baylor will employ a lot of eight men in the box defenses (that is where the hard-hitting safety Lake comes in) the Cowboys need to exert their will and run.

Texas will be much tougher to run on next week, yet the Cowboys had better be ready to get it done. It would be great if home run hitter and master of the shifty hips Kendall Hunter could get some carries. This game should be great preparation for Texas. It had better not become a let down before Texas.

Edge: Oklahoma State but not by a lot.

2. Oklahoma State wide receivers vs. Baylor cornerbacks
The Cowboys pass catchers have been getting better and Hubert Anyiam, DeMarcus Conner, Justin Blackmon, and Tracy Moore have had fun. But Baylor has had cornerback problems with one out and another playing through injuries.

There are no rules against taking advantage of other team's misfortune. There is also the thought that at some time the NCAA will allow Dez Bryant to come back, and when he does there won't be as many reps and certainly not as many opportunities to catch the ball for the Cowboy receivers as there are right now.

The Cowboy wide receivers have played hungry and they need to keep it up. As the coaches would say they are not the finished product yet and they need all the experience they can get.

Edge: Oklahoma State

3. Oklahoma State defensive line
vs. Baylor offensive line
Chalk this one up just like matchup No. 1 as the defensive line needs to improve and get better. They also need to be ready to inflict as much damage and distraction as they can next week to Colt McCoy and the Longhorns. Use Baylor as an opportunity to get better, to become more demonstrative pass rushers.

The Baylor offensive line, in my opinion, is solid and center J.D. Walton is an outstanding player. This is a "golden" (pardon the pun) opportunity to get better. Use it!

Edge: Oklahoma State by a little, but hopefully getting better throughout the game.

You can see the score below but this game really reminds me of the game two weeks ago at Texas A&M. The Aggies aren't very good and Baylor is better. The only way the Cowboys lose this game is to give it away through turnovers, penalties, and poor play. Turnovers have been good lately but there is plenty of room for the nation's most penalized team to get better in that area. Chunk plays is a Gundy favorite that has been lacking some. Now is a great opportunity to improve in that area. I see OSU winning solidly, but a mistake here and a mistake there and then it could get real exciting, too exciting.

This Week's Games
@Nebraska 28 Iowa State 20
Oklahoma 38, @Kansas 14
@Texas Tech 70, Texas A&M 21
@Kansas State 27, Colorado 24
Texas 34, @Missouri 20

Last Week's Games
Texas 28, Oklahoma 16 @Dallas
Texas Tech 45, @Nebraska 20
Kansas 41, @Colorado 27
Texas A&M 38, @Kansas State 17
Baylor 20, @Iowa State 17
@Oklahoma State 37, Missouri 28

Season Record
Straight: 47-14
ATS: 30-19-1
Note: Games involving FCS teams do not have lines

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