Bears and Sooners could give the scoreboard a workout
OU escaped with a 49-41 win, but the game proved to be a harbinger of what was to come for the Sooners in 2017. Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and OU’s scary offense made up for numerous defensive lapses against the Bears, a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the season.
If anything, Baylor has taken its offensive attack up a notch this year. Meanwhile, recent performances indicate that OU’s defense might not have improved to the extent seen in the Sooners’ first two games of the year.
Are the Sooners and Bears gearing up for another shootout this weekend?
Baylor at Oklahoma
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -23.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Stopping OU’s ground game
Even with star Rodney Anderson on the shelf, Oklahoma’s rushing attack still poses a major problem for opposing defenses. Trey Sermon is maturing into a feature back, while quarterback Kyler Murray is doing damage with his legs.
Baylor has struggled to slow down opposing running games this year, to the tune of 166.3 rushing yards per game allowed. If the Bears don’t have a defensive scheme targeted at stopping the run, they’re in for a long game.
2. Exploiting the Sooners’ secondary
Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler has already shown that OU’s undersized cornerbacks are there for the taking by big wide receivers. Baylor has a stable of them, including junior Denzel Mims, who torched OU last season for 192 yards and three touchdowns on 11 receptions.
Has OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops taken any schematic steps to address these physical mismatches on the perimeter? Look for BU to target Mims and the other receivers early in the game to find out.
3. Pressuring Charlie Brewer
One good way to prevent the ball from getting to all those talented receivers: sacking Baylor QB Charlie Brewer. That could prompt Stoops to turn his rushers loose — when OU isn’t blitzing, pressure on the QB has been nonexistent. Brewer can use his scrambling ability to buy time and pick up yards by fleeing the pocket, so look for the Sooners to deploy a spy on him in third-and-medium situations.
Despite the thick point spread, Baylor could cause some serious problems for OU. The Bears have so many weapons at receiver, and the Sooners’ ability to cover them all is in serious doubt.
Fortunately for the home team, the Bears haven’t given any reason to think they can stop OU consistently, either. The Sooners shouldn’t find much resistance when they want to run, and BU has yet to face an aerial attack that can match what they will see on Saturday.
That sounds like a formula for big plays and lots of points. The Bears will find the end zone often enough to raise more concerns in Sooner Nation about OU’s defense. But getting stops against the Sooners will prove far more challenging.
Prediction: Oklahoma 49, Baylor 31
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.