Baylor has two remaining home games this year. To state the obvious, if they win them both, Baylor will go bowling. Baylor’s remaining schedule is tough.
Baylor’s chances of bowling, per S&P+, tanked last week after their miserable showing against West Virginia, which caused them to drop 18 spots (a true feat this late in the season). Prior to that game, S&P gave Baylor a much better shot of getting 6 or 7 wins, whereas now it seems that 5 or 6 is much more likely.
Thus, this week’s game against OSU is really quite large. Despite seemingly tepid/anxious fan support and attendance, Baylor has played well at home this year (first half of Duke notwithstanding). This is a big opportunity for Baylor to steal a game at home against a good Oklahoma State team.
Oklahoma State has been a difficult team to pin down this year. A horse I’ve been riding this year is that it when it comes to fan perception, timing is everything. If we are trying to get the “true” picture (inasmuch as is possible) of the state of affairs, it is best to wait, get a bigger sample size, and then assess.
Oklahoma State got of to a torrid start, crushing Missouri State, South Alabama, and a very good good Boise State team. But while the collective college football world was patting them on the back, they went out the next week and laid out an absolute clunker against (what we thought at the team) was a below-average Texas Tech team, losing 17-41.
*A note for these images. The number to the right of the team is that team’s S&P rank. The first percentage (5%, here) is post-game win expectancy. The -16.5 is the adjusted scoring margin (looking at the overall stats and what you would expect the final score to be). The final percentages are team performance: first overall, then offense, then defense.
They followed that up by cashing in on a free week against Kansas. But who gets credit for that? The following two weeks: Iowa State and Kansas State. Despite my picking ISU to finish second in the league pre-season, this opinion did not spread much to most of CFB fans. Furthermore, ISU had gotten off to a slow start, so when Oklahoma State lost by a touchdown in a shootout to ISU, people wondered whether the wheels were falling off. This feeling was seemingly verified the next week against Kansas State, where OSU again laid out another clunker, losing 12-31 to a bad team.
At this point, most fans had written OSU off. They had a lost a couple of clunkers, and their QB play looked shaky. But then, of course, they go out and win a huge game against a previously undefeated-in-conference Texas, and people again are trying to get a proper read on them.
But a 30-thousand foot view shows a pretty clear picture. This is a good to really-good team with an explosive offense who lost one inexcusable game (happens to pretty much everyone but Alabama). Iowa State and Texas Tech are, as it turns out, quite good. Their “Five Factors” show as much:
Bad news for Baylor: OSU has been explosive. Very explosive. For a Baylor defense that has continually struggled to defend the big play, OSU will certainly get a few.
Thus, it seems to be, the main question is whether Baylor can keep up with OSU offensively. I think they can. Baylor is currently ranked 37th in offense in the country, falling a lot after a disastrous performance against WVU. You can’t totally throw that game out, but you sort of can, since it featured so many strange occurrences. The Baylor offense remains very good at staying on schedule, but continues to struggle to find big plays of its own.
If Baylor can’t stay on the field offensively, this game could get ugly as OSU continually takes shots down field. As we all know from Briles days, shots down field are scary for opposing teams, but equally scary for you when its the first time you’ve had the ball in 20 minutes. Baylor’s best hope is long, consistent drives that can eat some clock and limit OSU’s opportunities. OSU’s QB Taylor Cornellius has been prone to turning the ball over. Limit the possessions to 11-13 each, get a few big stops, and hope our offense can keep up with OSU.
OSU’s defense will likely bring a lot of pressure against the Baylor offense. They want to get the ball back in the hands of their offense. Expect to see a lot of Jalen Hurd and passes to the RBs this week, as Baylor tries to take advantage of the very aggressive OSU defense.
I’m not one for score predictions. But I think Baylor comes in fired up after an embarrassing performance last week, and in front of a (hopefully) jazzed Baylor crowd.
Give me Baylor 34, OSU 31.