Man alive, Baylor has made a helluva turnaround. It was just two years ago the Bears went 1-11 in Matt Rhule's first year in Waco. Then last year, they went 7-6 and played a postseason game. And now here we are in 2019 and the Bears are 11-1 and playing in the Big 12 title game against Oklahoma, with an outside outside outside outside shot at getting into the College Football Playoff.
It has been a thrilling ride to say the least, recovering from the controversial and tumultuous days of the Art Briles era. They are now one win away from breaking the record for most wins in a season in school history. Rhule also is a lock for Big 12 Coach of the Year and even a trendy pick for national coach of the year honors as well. And coming off a confidence-building 61-6 win over Kansas, everything is ramping upwardly for the Bears.
The only thing is... they won't beat Oklahoma on Saturday.
5 Reasons Why Oklahoma Will Win the Big 12 Championship Game
1. Title game experience
C'mon, this is old hat for the Sooners. They sport a stellar 9-1 mark in these Big 12 title games, having played in 10 of the last 14, including the last two since the game was brought back and played in the Jerry Dome. This championship setting is completely in the Sooners' wheelhouse and they'll lean on that experience factor. Plus, Jalen Hurts is the master of the big game, going 2-1 in the Iron Bowl, 2-0 in the SEC Championship Game, and also started two national title games. A little ole game vs. Baylor? Pffft, that's kid's stuff to him.
2. That first game should've been a rout
When Oklahoma had to rally to beat Baylor 34-31 in Waco back in mid-November, the Sooners know it should not have been that close of a game. Especially when you consider the visitors outgained the Bears 525 to 307 overall, 228 to 113 on the ground and 297 to 194 through the air. OU even nearly doubled BU in first downs 34 to 18 and had a ridiculous 41:11 to 18:49 advantage in time of possession. So why was this game close? Because the Sooners fumbled five times (losing two), threw an interception, and had seven penalties compared to just one for the Bears. After getting behind 31-10 at halftime the Sooner defense held Baylor to 16 plays for 99 yards, including three three-and-outs, one fumble, and an interception. They've figured the Bears out.
3. Two words: Cee Dee
Okay, that's actually one word, as in CeeDee Lamb. The last time these two teams hooked up the dynamic OU wideout did not play due to a reported concussion. He is a difference-maker for sure. Lamb has 50 catches for 1,035 yards and is third in the nation with 14 touchdown receptions. His last two games he has just six catches and one touchdown, so you know head coach Lincoln Riley is primed to get him involved heavily again. OU has outscored its opponents 141-42 in the first quarter this year, which is fourth-best in the country. Look for Lamb to help keep that trend going this week as the coaching staff wants to get him cranking early.
4. You're not in Kansas anymore.
Baylor made child's play out of their game with Kansas, scoring three touchdowns in their first 15 plays, all with gale-forced winds behind them in Lawrence. But that has been typical of the Bears' 2019 season, a lot of easy competition. Sure, 11 wins are nothing to sneeze at no matter who you're playing, but let's be honest, their strength of schedule is at 42nd nationally according to the Sagarin Rankings. In fact, some of their toughest games have come against very average competition, including a 21-13 win at Rice, a double-OT win vs. Texas Tech, a 17-14 win vs. West Virginia, and a triple-OT win at TCU. These are teams that the Bears should've blown out.
5. Hurts will take care of the ball better
When Jalen Hurts has taken care of the ball, OU has rolled. When he hasn't, they have struggled a bit. Just look at the first half and second half of the first meeting. Hurts turned the ball over twice and the Big Red found themselves down by 25 at one point, trailing 28-3. When Hurts played efficiently and effectively, the Sooners rolled, just like in the second half where they outscored the Bears 24-0. The other side of the coin is that the OU defense is inside the Bears' heads. That dominant second half was a shellshock moment for them.
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.