Strength of Schedule: Baylor

The Sooners toughest game of the season could decide the Big 12 Championship and a spot in the 4-team playoff

This game is clearly at the top of any list. Whether the ranking is toughest opponent, most important game for recruits, most important for winning a championship, it’s this one. In the grand scheme of things, Baylor has risen from the cellar to the roof of the Big 12 miraculously fast – and I don’t like using the word miraculous. Baylor won its first conference championship last year and really dusted off Oklahoma. The Bears only loss came against Oklahoma State.

12. Baylor

2013 record: 11-2

Last year vs. OU: 41-12, Baylor

Why this game is dangerous: Baylor is not only the defending Big 12 champion, but the Bears are also the most dangerous and complete offense in the conference. They showed it last year, and they could easily remain the top team in the conference this season. With the No. 1 offense in the nation led by quarterback Bryce Petty, who returned to Waco despite a chance to be drafted last year, Baylor is scary. Also back, among six returning members of the offense alone, are three starting wide receivers. This is a potent offense, and that’s an understatement. Coming off a school record for wins, 4,000-plus passing yards by Petty and its first Big 12 title and BCS bowl appearance, the Bears are at their best, and they are the most dangerous opponent, by far. But Baylor has never won in Norman, giving the Sooners a decided advantage.

Players to watch: This game goes as Petty chooses. If he’s on, Oklahoma just can’t keep up. No player will require more single attention by the Sooners’ defense than Petty. He has weapons EVERYWHERE with speed and athleticism on the outside and Shock Linwood standing next to him in the backfield. The best way for Oklahoma to combat Petty is to keep the ball out of his hands – simple enough, right. But with no bell-cow running back, the Sooners’ will lean on their offensive line to push Baylor’s defense around. However, the Bears have possibly their best defensive line in school history this year.

Prediction: Put it in the books: Both of these teams will be undefeated when they meet in early November. The winner of this game will have a huge advantage in the race for the Big 12 Championship and likely won’t be caught. Both teams face Oklahoma State and two winnable games after the match-up. The Cowboys aren’t likely to be in the championship conversation, meaning that this game could serve as the de-facto championship. The specifics on the field are about as uncertain as Baylor’s offense. Either team could take an early advantage or the lead could be traded a dozen times. This one will come down to the fourth quarter, period. It won’t be the blowout of last season. But the Sooners come through late. A key surprise turnover – like a defensive line interception – could be the difference. Massive points though. 49-45.

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