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Thursday Matchup: Baylor vs. Oklahoma Stats Preview

Finally, we have another real game to talk about. Baylor is a double-digit favorite for Thursday's game against the Sooners, and there may be good reason for that. Let's look at the stats.

That's Eric Striker.  We should try to block him.
That's Eric Striker. We should try to block him.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

So here we are. The stats at FootballOutsiders have been updated following Week 11 in CFB and we're now ready to get a good look at the 2013 Oklahoma Sooners. What a great time to be alive! Let's get right to it.

2013 FootballOutsiders Metrics for the Baylor Bears vs. the Oklahoma Sooners.

Category Baylor (7-0)
Oklahoma (7-1)
Overall F/+ Rk 5 (36.9%)
29 (9.3%)
Overall FEI Rk 6 (.244)
32 (.132)
Overall S&P+ Rk 2 (292.5)
28 (229.9)
Field Position Advantage 31 58 Baylor

When Baylor Has the Ball... EDGE
Offensive/Defensive FEI Rk
5 (.652)
22 (-.379)
1 (1.375)
21 (-.373)
First Down Rate
1 (.899)
10 (.560)
Available Yards Rate
1 (.749)
13 (.351)
Explosive Drives
1 (.420)
29 (.088)
Methodical Drives 94 (.116)
30 (.110)
Value Drives
2 (.650)
15 (.286)
Offensive/Defensive S&P+
1 (158.7) 34 (114.7)
Play Efficiency
1 (162.9)
45 (105.5) BAYLOR
Std. Downs S&P+ Rk.
2 (143.4)
62 (101.9) BAYLOR
Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 1 (222.6) 38 (111.1) Baylor
Rushing S&P+ Rk 15 (125.5) 96 (90.1) BAYLOR
Passing S&P+ Rk 1 (211.8)
28 (117.9) Baylor
Drive Efficiency 2 (154.5)
27 (124.0) Baylor
Difference in Net Points
2 (2.58)
30 (-1.15) Baylor

When Oklahoma Has the Ball... EDGE
Offensive/Defensive FEI Rk 24 (-.315) 28 (.294) EVEN
9 (-.516) 58 (.098)
First Down Rate 5 (.529) 35 (.725) Baylor
Available Yards Rate 12 (.345) 51 (.492) BAYLOR
Explosive Drives 28 (.086) 62 (.132) BAYLOR
Methodical Drives 43 (.129) 46 (.165) EVEN
Value Drives 11 (.273)
44 (.443) Baylor
Offensive/Defensive S&P+ 11 (133.8) 24 (115.2)
Play Efficiency 25 (114.8) 30 (112.7) EVEN
Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 35 (110.4) 25 (118.2) EVEN
Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 25 (118.3) 50 (105.2) Baylor
Rushing S&P+ Rk
60 (105.5)
27 (118.0) Oklahoma
Passing S&P+ Rk 25 (119.1) 38 (112.9) Baylor
Drive Efficiency
9 (152.9)
19 (117.7) EVEN
Difference in Net Points
1 (-2.93)
31 (.44) Baylor

Special Teams EDGE
F/+ Special Teams
105 78
Special Teams Efficiency
102 (-1.886)
78 (-.468)
Field Goal Efficiency
45 (.296)
17 (.588)

Punt Return Efficiency
117 (-.318)
50 (-.036)

Kickoff Return Efficiency
47 (-.126)
86 (-.219)

Punt Efficiency
124 (.278)
118 (.196)

Kickoff Efficiency
49 (-.210)
67 (-.156)

Opponent Field Goal Efficiency
22 (-.312)
122 (.777)

A Few Notes:

Close observers of my hypo matchups from last week, particularly the one against Alabama, will notice that some of our raw numbers (not ranks) have gone up. That probably seems strange considering we didn't play, but baked into those numbers are the rankings for every team we have played. So the increases (and decreases, in a couple of places) are the result of the numbers changing for our past opponents. Thanks, Buffalo and Kansas State (now 73 and 32 in F/+, respectively)!

If you're a Sooner fan unfamiliar with my format, I already know the labels in the EDGE column are totally arbitrary. It's a terrible way to do things. I just haven't found anything better yet. Quickly,
EVEN = 10 or fewer ranking spots difference
Lowercase = 40 or fewer ranking spots difference
UPPERCASE = 40 or more ranking spots difference.

Like I said, totally arbitrary.


These numbers love Baylor in this game, particularly on the ground against OU's to-date porous run defense and on standard downs. Our defense matches up well with their offense, though they have a similar, yet much smaller, advantage running the ball. That Kansas State game is a gift that keeps on giving. It's hard to predict how the Difference in Net Points will play out in game action, but as I've said before, I strongly believe that is a function of our offense forcing opponents to go for touchdowns when they could settle for field goals. If that trend continues, it could be a long day for the Sooners.

The individual units for this game shake out as follows:
1. Baylor O (26.9% F/+)
2. Baylor D (12.4% F/+)
3. Oklahoma D (9.3% F/+)
4. Oklahoma O (9.3% F/+)
5. Oklahoma ST (-.6% F/+)
6. Baylor ST (-2.3% F/+)

When Baylor Has the Ball:

Good things are probably going to happen, either through the air or on the ground. Baylor's offense clearly outclasses the Oklahoma defense, which has been fairly good this season. Sorry, OU D, you're just dealing with a whirling ball of destruction that takes no quarter. The real problem for OU is bolded above: their run defense has been awful this season. If in order to stop us from running, you have to commit extra help to the box or your safeties get caught looking into the backfield, that's a serious problem. OU almost has to sell out against the run, though, or Baylor will just take what it needs all the way down the field like some kind of Nights Watch-clad parasite.

To answer the somewhat obvious question, the reason that I believe OU is probably so much better on passing downs than standard downs is probably two-fold. First, they're better against the pass, period. That's clear. Second, though it isn't reflected here, OU has quite a strong pass rush. Eric Striker knows basically one thing, and it's rushing the passer. Give him situations where he can do that and he will to great effect. That's why it's so important for OU to stop Baylor from running on first and second down and for Baylor to do so as much as possible. Of course, we've already seen that Spencer Drango and/or the combination of Kelvin Palmer and Troy Baker are more than up to the task of shutting down a dominant pass rusher. See Mack, Khalil.

Honestly, there's not much here that I would be happy to see if I were a Sooners fan. Sure, the possibility exists that your defense plays better than it has to date this season and makes things happen. Your corners are almost certainly better than any we've played, and that could mean tighter windows for Bryce Petty in trying to get the ball to Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese. However, that only matters if you can stop the run on a consistent basis to deemphasize play action, otherwise you can and will get burned. Shoot, you might get burned anyway.

When Oklahoma Has the Ball:

Unless you're totally new to these previews and have no idea how good Baylor's defense has been this year, there's not a lot here that should be a surprise. Even taking into account the weak offenses Baylor has faced thus far, the Bears defense has been nothing short of a revelation, jumping from a spot in the 120s in S&P+ for most of last season all the way to #11. Quite a bit of that is due to improved defensive line play across the board, particularly on passing downs, but quite a bit more should be attributed, I think, to a significant change in defensive philosophy. Simply put: whereas before we often complained about a soft scheme designed not to give up the big play, Baylor has instead fielded a unit whose overall aggressiveness resembles that of our offense. We've seen a lot of Cover 0 with safeties often playing within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage consistently and blitzes from the corners off the edge and from the linebackers straight up the middle (my favorite kind, since it's the shortest distance to the QB), the overall effect of which is a situation where opposing QBs can no longer make a sandwich before throwing to whichever wide open receiver they deem in most need of the stats.

For this game, OU presents an offense very similar to one we saw earlier in the season in Kansas State (seriously, look at Kansas State's offensive ratings, they're only 2 spots below Oklahoma in S&P+). They won't do things the same way with Blake Bell as the Wildcats did with Daniel Sams, but their overall approach should be similar. They have to see the relative mismatch their rushing offense has against our defense and think they can take advantage, shortening the game by possessing the ball purposefully and grinding out yards. We've talked about it before countless times; it's a good plan. And with OU's success on standard downs serving as the genesis for an impressive first down rate, it has a reasonable chance of being successful.

Should things go as we expect on offense, however, or OU not be able to run the ball as they hope, that plan, designed as it is to keep games close or play from ahead, has to go by the wayside. Blake Bell will be forced to throw the ball down the field, something he's not very good at doing. OU doesn't suck as a passing offense -- they're average, at worst -- but that kind of game is not what they want. Passing the ball, even successfully, speeds up the tempo of the game. That's exactly what we want.

One thing to watch out for, considering the success OU has had against us with it in the pass: the Belldozer. You haven't seen nearly so much of it this season, but he's the same guy that scored however many touchdowns with it in 2011 and ripped us up in Norman a year ago. If the Sooners get inside the red zone and the field shrinks in the passing game, don't be surprised if you see them line up in the Belldozer once again.

Special Teams:

The only thing I have to say here is that I'm excited this area of the game isn't a total disaster for us relative to our opponent as it was in the Alabama and Ohio State hypos. It's also worth mentioning that I read somewhere this week (can't remember where) that Baylor put special emphasis on the special teams in the off week. That's good news, right?

The Bottom Line:

Baylor is a big favorite for a reason. Along with being at home in front of what could be the greatest crowd in Floyd Casey Stadium history, we have (according to F/+) a better offense and defense than our opponents. Thankfully, we don't have a huge disadvantage on special teams, an area of the game where things can get crazy quickly. Therefore, it seems totally reasonable to say that for Oklahoma to win, a lot of things have to go their way. Most of those things involve turnovers, something Baylor has managed to avoid for the most part this season.

I couldn't think of a good poll question for this preview today, since we already know the spread and I've already asked if you think Baylor will cover. If you have an idea, throw it in the comments.