Given the prolific, quick-strike offenses displayed by Baylor and Oklahoma State so far this season, the outcome of Saturday’s game between these two scoring machines could be mistaken for a basketball score.
One of these two teams is going to come out of the fray on Saturday afternoon at Oklahoma State’s Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater with no worse that a share of the Big 12 South Division lead, and there’s a reasonable chance the winner could even come out of the game with sole possession of the divisional lead with only three more weeks to go.
If someone would have told you eight weeks ago that this conference game in Week 9 of the season would be for the divisional lead in the South, you would have thought that he or she was on some form of hallucinogen. The surprising reality, however, is that Baylor and Oklahoma State have a combined record of 14-3 overall this season and are 7-2 in the conference.
Baylor’s lone conference loss was to Texas Tech, 45-35, in a game played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The Bear’s only nonconference defeat was to fourth-ranked TCU, 45-10. Oklahoma State has only been beaten once this season, losing to Nebraska in a 51-41 shootout in Stillwater the week after the Huskers were upset at home by a Texas team that can’t seem to win on its own home turf.
Scoring wise, Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 Conference, averaging 45 points a game, and Baylor is third with a 34-point average. The two teams are also one-two in the conference in total offense. Oklahoma State is averaging 527 yards a game in total offense, the second best in the country, and Baylor comes in eighth nationally with an offensive output of 490 yards a game.
In defeating Kansas State a week ago, Oklahoma State won its third consecutive road game and reached the seven-win mark for the fifth straight season, a milestone in OSU football history. With two more wins, the Cowboys will set another school record: three straight nine-win seasons. This by a team that many football experts thought would go through a rebuilding year and for which anything higher than a lower-tier finish in the conference would be a big stretch.
Both Oklahoma State and Baylor are led by the outstanding play of their quarterbacks. The Cowboys’ Brandon Weeden gets it done with his arm. He’s second in the country in touchdown passes, with 23, and is third in passing yards, averaging 318 yards a game. The Cowboys are able to keep opposing defenses honest because of the gashing running ability of senior Kendall Hunter, who ranks third in the country in rushing yardage (about 147 yards every game).
It also doesn’t hurt to have the country’s best receiver in 6-1 sophomore wide-receiver Justin Blackmon, who is averaging nine catches and almost 160 yards per game for the Cowboys.
Baylor’s dynamic quarterback, Robert Griffin III, doesn’t take a back seat to anybody when it comes to moving the football on offense. The sophomore signal caller is the nation’s third best in total offensive production, averaging 333 yards per game. Weeden ranks eighth in the country in that category at 309 yards.
By just looking at the scores of their games this season, it is obvious where these two teams place their emphasis, and it’s not on defense, particularly in defending the pass. Baylor is giving up 237 passing yards per game, seventh in the Big 12, and the Cowboys allow 272 yards through the air, the second worst in the conference.
Asked about the challenge his team has going to Stillwater this weekend to go up against the one-loss Cowboys, Baylor head coach Art Briles, at his weekly press conference Monday, said, “They’ve got good people across the board, and they’ve got a good system. It’s going to be a really good test this weekend with us going up there.”
On whether there is a parallel with last year’s Baylor basketball team (and this season’s Baylor football team), Briles said, “I like their outcome. We’d like to parallel all the way with that. They (the 2009-10 Baylor basketball team) finished up really well, and our story still hasn’t been written. I think winning breeds winning sand momentum breeds momentum. All those things tie together.”
Baylor is 7-2 for the first time since 1991, and the Bears’ four Big 12 victories are the most since the league was formed in 1996.
There are a couple of other Big 12 games of importance this weekend. Oklahoma (7-1, 3-1), ranked eighth in the current BCS standings takes its show on the road, where the Sooners have been a very average team in recent years, where Texas A&M (5-3, 2-2) awaits. Bob Stoops’ team needs a win to keep pace with Baylor or Oklahoma State in quest of the Big 12 South title. The Missouri Tigers (7-1, 3-1) also head out on the road for a second straight week, this weekend traveling south to Texas Tech (4-4, 2-4).
Big 12 Sports Examiner’s Game of the Week pick
Baylor 35 @ OKLAHOMA STATE 45
5 things to watch for in this game
- The team that has to punt the least will probably win this game. As far as punting goes, Oklahoma State has one of the country’s best in Quinn Sharp (47-yard average).
- If the game is close at the end and comes down to a field goal, the advantage goes to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ placekicker is 16 out of 16 for the year, including two of 52 yards) and has hit 24 of his last 25.
- Baylor has lost to Oklahoma State the last four times the teams have played.
- Whichever team has the most success running the ball (OSU with league-leading rusher Kendall Hunter and Baylor with Jay Finley) will be able to stretch out the defense and play to their passing strength more effectively.
- Baylor running back Jay Finley has had three consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
Big 12 football by the numbers
1 – Nebraska’s 31-17 win over sixth-ranked Missouri last Saturday was the Cornhusker’s first win over a top-10 team since 2001.
35– Number of Texas A&M 1st downs against Kansas last weekend, the second most in A&M history.
42– The average yards of Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in his 20 scoring passes this season.
51– Going back to the 4th quarter (27-0) of last year’s game and the 1st quarter (24-0) of Saturday’s game, Nebraska outscored Missouri 51-0
488– OU’s 488 passing yards against Colorado last weekend were the most ever by the Sooners and the most ever allowed by Colorado.
Big 12 Examiner’s other picks for Week 9
NEBRASKA 38 @ Iowa State 13
TEXAS 28 @ Kansas State 20
OKLAHOMA 34 @ Texas A&M 27
MISSOURI 35 @ Texas Tech 21
COLORADO 28 @ Kansas 17
For more information:
Related Baylor football news
Related Oklahoma State football news
Big 12 Conference official website
Additional Big 12 sports news and commentary