Are you ready for OU?
Baylor travels to Norman this Saturday to face the Oklahoma Sooners, and this game is predicted to be a close one. Both teams are 5-3 on the season after a two-game winning streak ended a mid-season slump. Baylor is 17th in SP+ and 22nd in FEI while Oklahoma is 12th in SP+ and 25th in FEI. F+, a combination of SP+ and FEI, has Oklahoma one spot above Baylor.
Here’s a breakdown of what the stats say about Oklahoma and what Baylor fans should expect going into the game.
Overall, Oklahoma’s offense is really good, typically considered a top 25, if not top 10, unit depending on the source. On standard downs, Oklahoma will pose one of the biggest threats Baylor has faced all season. As a reminder, standard downs are all first downs, second downs with 7 yards or fewer to go, and third/fourth downs with 4 yards of fewer to go. Passing downs are all other downs.
At 57%, Oklahoma has by far the best success rate on standard downs of all of Baylor’s opponents thus far. This means that OU earns 50%/70%/100% of yards to gain on first/second/third and fourth down, respectively.
A big reason why Oklahoma is so successful is their consistency on the ground and willingness to take advantage of it. OU runs the ball more than 60% of the time on standard downs, the most of any of Baylor’s previous opponents, and picks up 5.5 non-sack yards per carry, second only to Kansas. They also rarely get “stuffed” (stopped for no gain or a loss of yards), doing better than everyone except West Virginia.
When OU does decide to pass on standard downs, they pick up an above average 12.7 yards per completion, but they also allow an above average 5.3% sack rate. With those numbers, it’s no surprise why the Sooners prefer to run.
Fortunately, Baylor often holds their opponents below their season averages on standard downs, particularly in success rate and yards per carry. The Bears need to continue this trend and disrupt Oklahoma on the ground, forcing them to pass the ball on early downs.
Unfortunately, Baylor’s defense does not do so well on passing downs. The Bears allow a 50% success rate on average on passing downs. West Virginia and Oklahoma State, two of Baylor’s losses, lead the way with their high 40’s success rate on passing downs. Oklahoma is just ahead of Iowa State, Texas Tech, and BYU with a success rate just above 40%. To put it simply — Baylor can beat opponents like OU, but they’ve yet to beat someone a little more efficient.
As with standard downs, Oklahoma is more run-heavy than Baylor’s previous opponents. Their 7.8 yards per carry is the best Baylor has faced, in no small part to Dillon Gabriel’s willingness to rush the ball when receivers aren’t open. Baylor is simply average in limiting yards per carry on passing downs.
When the Sooners do drop back to pass, they register 14 yards per completion, also the best Baylor has faced. Likely due to their balanced approach, OU’s sack rate isn’t any worse on passing downs than it is on standard downs. Baylor’s been incredibly bad in limiting yards per completion on passing downs — they’ll need one of their best defensive showing on Saturday if they want to win.
Oklahoma’s defense isn’t bad, but it’s not particularly good, ranked around the 40-60 range nationally. Here’s how they match up with Baylor by standard and passing downs.
I’ll keep this short — Baylor has an above average offense, but it won’t be anything that Oklahoma hasn’t seen before. In almost statistic, Baylor is middle of the pack relative to OU’s previous opponents. In success rate, Baylor’s season average is right at OU’s average allowed. Same can be said about yards per completion, yards per carry, and stuff rate.
One area where Baylor stands out is their opponent-leading 7.5% sack rate allowed on standard downs, which is a sure way to end up in a passing down situation. However, Oklahoma’s average sack rate earned on standard downs is below 2%, so neither team has a clear advantage.
Things look a little better for Baylor on passing downs. While the Bears are still middle of the pack in success rate, yards per completion, and yards per carry relative to the Sooner’s other opponents, the Sooners themselves are relatively worse than they are on standard downs. On passing downs, Oklahoma allows their opponents to register a higher yards per completion and yards per carry than their opponents typically average.
In a reversal of fortunes, the one place where OU excels on passing downs is getting to the quarterback, and the one place where Baylor stands out from the typical OU opponent is protecting the quarterback. Without having the benefit of watching a lot of OU game film, this suggests that the Sooners are prone to blitzing the quarterback in passing situations relatively more often than other teams, but their rate of getting to the quarterback conditional on blitzing is lower. Overall sack rate is higher due to higher volume of blitzes, but yards allowed is also higher due to failure to consistently get to the QB before the play can develop.
SP+ predicts a 4.5 point victory for Oklahoma, to the tune of 32 to 27, while FEI predicts a narrow 32.4 to 31.8 victory for Baylor. ESPN’s FPI sides with FEI, giving Baylor a 53% chance of winning.
Eight games in, I still don’t have a good read on this Baylor team. The secondary held up really well the last few games, despite a much rockier start to the season. The receivers are starting to make some impressive plays, as well. Khalil Keith is a monster in pass protection and has finally returned to the field.
If we see the Baylor team that played last week in Lubbock, I like our chances in Norman. But if the team that left Morgantown shows up? It’s going to be a looooong game.