With last weekend's results in the Big 12, the Oklahoma Sooners (5-2) now control their own destiny again for a spot in the conference championship game as they get set to take on the Baylor Bears (2-5) on Saturday night. That is, if COVID-19 doesn't rear its ugly head again after last weekend's matchup with West Virginia was canceled.
"We've got a shot," head coach Lincoln Riley told to the media this week. "I mean, we'll see. I don't know that I'm optimistic or pessimistic or anything. It's just kind of what you do right now. You know, you get through the week and see how it goes. So hopefully we can get our numbers headed back in a more favorable trend, but we'll just have to see how it goes."
The Bears are coming off an upset victory over Kansas State last weekend by way of a last-second field goal and will be looking to ride that momentum into Norman on Saturday, where they haven't won since 2014.
Baylor at Oklahoma
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -22
When Baylor Has the Ball
There have been calls this season from the Baylor faithful to replace Charlie Brewer, but the senior quarterback was at his best in the second half vs. Kansas State as the Bears came back from a 17-6 halftime deficit to win 32-31. Brewer had a hand in all four touchdowns scored by Baylor and finished the game with 420 total yards despite rain coming down for much of the night.
At 2-5, Baylor clearly isn't where they want to be, but you can see a team trending in the right direction under first-year head coach Dave Aranda. Despite losing five-straight before last weekend's victory, the Bears were mostly competitive in all five games, losing by an average margin of just six points. Coming out of the gates to start games is where Baylor has struggled the most, trailing by double-digits in four of the five losses at halftime before attempting to make a comeback.
Brewer and Co. will have their hands full on Saturday with an Oklahoma defense that has stifled opponents in the last two weeks, holding both Kansas and Oklahoma State to under 100 rushing yards and 200 passing yards in both games. This may be a game, similar to last week, where Brewer will have to take it upon himself to carry the offense with his arm since the Sooners rank ninth in the country against the run, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry.
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
This is the Oklahoma offense we've been used to under Riley. After starting the year 1-2, the Sooners offense has come alive during this five-game win streak, averaging over 50 points per game, and scoring 62 points in consecutive weeks vs. Texas Tech and Kansas. Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler has shown marked improvements during that stretch with a 64 percent completion rate and 15 total touchdowns. Most notably — just two interceptions in that span.
The ground game has also gotten a boost from the return of senior Rhamondre Stevenson, who is already second on the team in rushing with 332 yards and five touchdowns in just three games played. Averaging well over six yards per attempt, Stevenson rushed for a season-high 141 yards on 26 carries in the route over in-state rival Oklahoma State two weeks ago. Stevenson should have plenty of success finding running room against a Baylor run defense that ranks eighth in the conference at 184 rushing yards allowed per contest.
No wide receiver has emerged for the Sooners in 2020 as a true No. 1 target, but Oklahoma is getting contributions from a number of players, specifically true freshman receiver Marvin Mims, who leads the team with seven touchdowns. Perhaps the Sooners will see a breakout because Baylor has taken a step back on defense after ranking first in the Big 12 in scoring defense a year ago. The Bears have fallen to the middle of the pack, allowing 27.7 points and 367.7 yards per game.
There's too much to play for on Saturday for Oklahoma to think this is a possible letdown spot in their attempt to make their fifth-straight appearance in the Big 12 title game. The Sooners have a distinct advantage in the trenches with their offensive line taking on one of the worst rush defenses in the conference, and they have been excellent running the football with Stevenson back in the lineup. Add in the improving play of Rattler, and it's just a matter of how much the Sooners win by on Saturday — if this game is played.
Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Baylor 20
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— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.