On the drive that broke Oklahoma’s heart last year, Corey Coleman had five touches. Most of them were easy catches right in front of Julian Wilson. It didn’t show exactly the type of weapon Coleman really is.
Oklahoma will be reminded of that again this coming weekend in Waco, although it seems like it won’t be a surprise this time around.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for all of us,” Oklahoma cornerback Jordan Thomas said. “We’ve focused on a lot of technical stuff, eye control and what not, but we can only prepare so much. Once we get out there, we just have to play.”
Thomas will draw the assignment on Coleman plenty Saturday, even though Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops joked that he hoped Baylor would put him in the backfield – on the final play of that drive a year ago, Coleman actually was in the backfield.
When Thomas doesn’t square off with the nation’s leader in touchdowns, Zack Sanchez will get the nod. Sanchez practiced Monday and Tuesday of this week, and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said Sanchez better be at 100 percent if he’s going to compete this weekend.
Shutting down – er, slowing down – Coleman will be essential, and in all likelihood because of Baylor’s scheme, Thomas and Sanhez will have to do it alone.
“He’s a great athlete and you can see that on film,” Thomas said. “Come Saturday, we just have to be ready.”
And don’t forget about KD Cannon or Jay Lee, who both have more than 450 yards and have combined for 10 touchdowns. Baylor isn’t a one-trick pony.
It’s all hands on deck in the Oklahoma secondary.
That is the main battle this weekend. Here’s a quick look at a few other key spots:
When Oklahoma has the ball. . .
Oklahoma passing attack vs. Baylor secondary
This has all the makings for a big-time shootout, until maybe you look at each team’s pass defense. There’s only one category where Oklahoma and Baylor rank first and second in the Big 12. You guessed it: Pass defense. Well, they’re one and two in total defense, too.
That could just be because they haven’t played each other or TCU or Oklahoma State, a quartet that makes up four of the top five passing offenses in the conference – and four of the top 11 air attacks in the nation.
If this were going to be a shootout, then Oklahoma’s best chance to keep up would be through the air. Baker Mayfield leads an offense capable of putting up points, something the Sooners were greatly missing the last two years against Baylor.
Mayfield has to be the catalyst. He’s done a good job in recent weeks of managing his emotions and the game. He’s also avoided a big turnover, throwing only one interception in the past five games (140 attempts).
This starts a string of three big tests for Oklahoma, and three major tests for the redshirt freshman left tackle. And Oakman might be the biggest – size-wise, that is.
Brown doesn’t have to face many defensive ends that stand eye-to-eye, and the same could be said for Oakman. There will be plenty of times Saturday when Brown is on an island. He is ready to accept the challenge. Now, he’s got a little bit more of the technique down too. Brown doesn’t sound any different, still speaking with the same confidence that he had early in the season. You just believe him a little more when he says he’s ready.
This won’t be the only battle in the trenches. Oklahoma’s shaky-yet-improving offensive line will have its hands full across the board against Baylor. There’s a lot of individual talent there, but the results have been lacking – just 16 sacks all season.
When Baylor has the ball. . .
Baylor run game vs. Sooners’ front seven
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops reminded the media three times Monday that Baylor’s passing game is so good because it’s running game is one of the better attacks in the nation. He had heard enough the third time and said he wasn’t going to talk about it any more.
So in his place, Baylor has the best rushing offense in the Big 12 and the best rushing offense in a nation that isn’t out of a direct option. Shock Linwood leads the Big 12 in rushing yards per game by more than 11 yards per contest and is averaging 7.8 yards per carry – over a yard more than any other running back with at least 100 carries.
That’s the challenge for the Oklahoma run defense, which has improved in recent weeks and is giving up just 148.7 yards per game – aided by four-straight big wins.
The Sooners will have to win the one-on-one matchups on the interior. Baylor’s receivers use the whole field, which forces teams into man coverage. When that happens, it’s a linebacker against Linwood. And he has the speed to make just about anyone miss.
Look at the run that Tapper and Striker are on during the last four games: The two have combined for eight sacks, 11 tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries. The duo is literally terrorizing opponents and baffling offensive lines.
Now it won’t be Stidham’s job to stop Tapper and Striker, although he can help by making quick decisions. It’ll be up to Oklahoma’s top pass rushing duo – with Charles Walker and Devante Bond also playing supporting roles – to keep Stidham off balance in his second career start.
It’s an intriguing match-up between the conference’s leader in team sacks against the Big 12’s best sack-preventing offensive line.