Matt Rhule inherited a mess at Baylor away from the field. If the Bears’ first three games of the season are any indication, the situation on the field isn’t very good, either. It’s so bad that a 14-point loss to Duke last week actually represented improvement.
Next up is a date with Oklahoma, one of the best teams in the nation. After an uneven first quarter, the Sooners cruised to a 56-14 win over Tulane last week. OU’s offense has maintained its offensive excellence, but a defense that is rounding into form makes the Sooners even more formidable than the squad that won the Big 12 in 2016.
Matt Rhule has been sleeping on the floor in his office this week. He’ll need to come up with a Mona Lisa of a game plan to score an upset of the Sooners.
Oklahoma at Baylor
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Oklahoma -27.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Taking care of the ball
Baylor has committed seven turnovers in three games this year, including six interceptions. Quarterback Zach Smith threw three of them to the Duke defense last week. He’ll have to avoid the ball hawks in Oklahoma’s secondary this week.
2. Baiting Baker
There aren’t many holes in Baker Mayfield’s game, but OU’s All-America QB hasn’t quite been in sync with his receivers when throwing deep. He took a few ill-advised shots down the field versus Tulane that didn’t amount to much more than jump balls.
Baylor head coach Matt Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow might consider ways to bait Mayfield into a few more of those deep throws on Saturday night. The Bears might have a chance to steal some balls that are up for grabs.
Conversely, OU’s offense could be even more dangerous if the Sooners start hitting those downfield passes with more regularity.
3. Who stops the run?
Neither of these teams has defended the run well this season. OU ranks 79th nationally in yards allowed per rush at 4.08. Baylor checks in at No. 87, giving up 4.35 yards per attempt.
Of course, the Bears have given up all those yards on the ground to the likes of Liberty, Duke and UTSA, which puts their performance in an even less favorable light.
Look for the Sooners to try to punish BU with the run all night long.
Matt Rhule proved in his stint at Temple that he knows what he’s doing. Baylor’s program might not ever reach the same level of consistent on-field success that the Bears saw under Art Briles, but the ineptitude that the Bears have showed in games one through three this year won’t be the norm.
Unfortunately for these Bears, even their best effort probably wouldn’t produce a win on Saturday without massive help from the Sooners.
If Baker Mayfield is still playing deep into the third quarter of this game, Baylor should consider that a job well done.
Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Baylor 17
— 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.