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Baylor vs. Oklahoma State Preview/Prediction Thread

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I wasn't going to do it, but now I am, and it's time to make predictions on tomorrow's game.

vs.
16/15 BAYLOR (3–0) vs. RV/RV Oklahoma State (2–1)
Sept. 24, 2016 | 6:30 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | McLane Stadium (45,140)

TV: FOX
Listen | Gametracker Gametracker | Game Notes Notes

OPPONENT: Oklahoma State Cowboys
ODB GAME HUB: Baylor Bears vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys 2016
MEET THE PRESS: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State
FIRST LOOK: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State
BREAKDOWN:
Baylor vs. Oklahoma State
ROLL CALL:
Baylor vs. Oklahoma State
OFFICIAL WEBSITE:
Oklahoma State Cowboys
MEDIA GUIDE: 2016 Oklahoma State Football Media Guide (Click here for roster)
LAST MEETING: 45–35 Baylor | ODB Game Hub
LAST GAME: W; Oklahoma State 45–38 Pitt
SB NATION BLOG: Cowboys Ride for Free, at right
SPREAD: Baylor –8.5 (Open: Baylor –10)
TV COVERAGE: FOX, 6:30 p.m. CST Saturday

The Big Picture:

In the grand scheme of things, we may not play a more important game in the entire season than tomorrow night against Oklahoma State.  If Baylor wins, they could be looking at 6-0 headed into the showdown with Texas in October.  If we lose, we'll be 3-1 and have lost our first Big 12 game.

So far, we've seen this team start slowly and then rev up to cruise away from inferior teams where there should have been no doubt.  They've faced adversity in those games without probably ever feeling like they might actually lose.  With the Big 12 schedule ramping up and the Cowboys coming to town, that's changing fast.  We'll find out a lot about this team and how it responds against an opponent that should, by rights, also be undefeated.

Advanced Stats:

Category

Baylor (3-0)

OSU (2-1*)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk 22 (30.9%)
37 (20.6%)
Baylor
Overall FEI Rk 27 (.113)
46 (.060)
Baylor
Overall S&P+ Rk 14 (16.1)
25 (12.8)
Baylor
Field Position Advantage ---
---
---

*Oklahoma State should be 3-0.  I'll say it as many times as you want.

Pretty evenly matched, all things considered.  Our F/+ rank fell for the third week in a row as preseason projections continue to fade out, and Oklahoma State's fell this week, too.  Still, Baylor has at least a 10-spot rankings edge in each metric.

Key Number 1 -- Pass Defense

The big question to be answered tomorrow is whether Baylor's #1 ranking in national in pass efficiency defense is even close to real (I say "close") because it's almost certainly not real, as in legitimate. Oh, are you just now finding out that we're #1 in the country in pass efficiency defense?  Now you're in my shoes from about an hour ago.  Welcome to the party.  For the sake of comparison, Oklahoma State is #37 in passing efficiency, and Baylor is a disappointing 62nd.

Tomorrow, however, Baylor will face what we haven't really seen so far this year: a team with both a seasoned QB (Mason Rudolph, who made his starting debut in this game two years ago) and a very talented wide receiver (James Washington) willing and capable of attacking down the field.  SMU wanted to do it but was limited by Ben Hicks starting the first game of his career.  Considering their struggles running the ball (OSU is 119th in rushing offense this season), not only do the Cowboys want to do it, they probably have to.

The question will be whether a combination of Baylor's pass defense and the weather (which should be ok by game time, but may not be) can stop them.  The latest injury reports that we've seen say that Orion Stewart should be back at safety, and that Ryan Reid may be joining him in the secondary, although Reid's status looks like it could still be a question.  If both are back, we'll be stronger than we would otherwise have been.

Key Number 2 -- Rush Offense

As KK noted in his breakdown earlier this week, OSU had real problems stopping the run against Pitt, a team not actually known for running the ball all that well.  On the season, OSU is ranked 60th in total rush defense, a very flawed statistic that I am forced to use because S&P+ hasn't opened things up yet on the specifics.

Baylor's biggest key on offense has to be to get the offensive line moving so that we're not relying on the arm of Seth Russell to carry us.  It's not that he can't do it; it's just not how our offense is built to operate.  Instead, the offense is intended to run to open up the pass, beating people down and then throwing over the top.  I hope we can do that again this week against Oklahoma State with the three-headed monster of Shock Linwood, Terence Williams, and budding star JaMycal Hasty, who can't get into the game soon enough for me.

Key Number 3 -- START FAST

I switched it up this week by listing this one third instead of first, but it probably should be first.  We can't keep playing games with people in the first quarter in Big 12 play and expect to have a legitimate chance to win.  The competition is too strong.  If we keep sputtering around like we have been, we'll find ourselves in a hole against one of these teams, and it won't be pretty.  We haven't found out yet how this team will react to a meaningful deficit, and I don't want to this week.  Far easier to just start how we should be starting and get the points rolling. We've got the talent to do it, and the plays have been there for the taking, we've just missed slightly in the last two games and faltered.

My Prediction:

Baylor is currently an 8.5-point favorite in this game as of this writing.  I think that may be a little much considering how the offense has looked.  I'll take the Bears to win this one by 7, with a final score of...

Final Score: Baylor 38, Oklahoma State 31.