When Baylor takes the field this Saturday, they have a chance to win their third Big 12 Championship in nine years. Standing in their way is one of only two teams to beat them this season, the Fightin’ Mullets of Oklahoma State.
As a heavyweight bout between two excellent defenses, you can bet on a low scoring game. As you watch, keep an eye on the following three statistics that will likely determine the winner.
Oklahoma State’s Sack Rate
In their first meeting, Oklahoma State lived in Baylor’s backfield like a squatter trying to gain property rights in NYC. The Cowboy’s defense sacked Gerry Bohanon 3 times and tallied 9 quarterback hurries against an offense that only gives up sacks on 4% of passing plays (13th in the country).
With 20 pass attempts (including sacks), Oklahoma State had a sack rate of 15% with quarterback hurries another 45% of the time! While uncharacteristic for Baylor, this is par for the course for a defense that leads the country with a sack rate of 11%.
In a contest of strength versus strength, look for Baylor to do better in round two.
Baylor’s Passing Efficiency
Baylor converted an anemic 3 of 15 on third down attempts (and only 1 of 3 on fourth down attempts) back in October. Unfortunately for the Bears, this was not an aberration. Oklahoma State is second in the country in forcing 48% of drives to end without a first down, and Baylor is slightly above average at 74% of drives gaining at least one first down (47th in the country).
How can Baylor do better? Probably not by relying on the run.
Oklahoma State is fourth in the country in stopping runs for zero or negative yards on 25% of plays (aka “Stuff Rate”) while Baylor is a worrisome 92nd in the country with positive runs 81% of the time.
On 3rd and 4th down runs with fewer than 2 yards to go (aka “Power Success Rate”), Oklahoma State allows conversions only 42% of the time (2nd). Baylor has a 72% conversion rate (55th).
To avoid literally running into the strength of the Cowboy defense, Baylor needs to be efficient passing the ball and picking up first downs through the air.
Oklahoma State’s Turnovers
For most of the season, Oklahoma State has done pretty well avoiding turnovers. They are 24th in the country with only 8% of offensive drives ending with a fumble or interception.
On the other side of the field, Baylor’s defense is 17th in the country with forced turnovers on 15% of opponent’s offensive possessions. When the teams first played, Spencer Sanders threw 3 beautiful interceptions to Dillon Doyle, Raleigh Texada, and JT Woods. By the end of the game, Baylor’s defense was tied for second in receptions behind only Tay Martin.
For Baylor to overcome the second best defense in the country, they need to generate extra possessions for their offense and cut possessions short for the Cowboys.
SIC ‘EM BEARS!
All statistics are courtesy of Football Outsiders unless otherwise mentioned. Football Outsiders only records statistics for non-garbage time drives against FBS opponents.