A year ago, Baylor was down to third-string quarterback Chris Johnson when the Bears traveled to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State. It didn’t slow them down at all, though, as they racked up 700 yards of total offense in a 45-35 win over the Cowboys.
Seems like a lifetime ago in light of everything that has changed at BU since then. What hasn’t changed: the Bears still have plenty of offensive playmakers. This season, they have a healthy starting QB, too.
The Pokes will need to do a better job of putting the clamps down on the Bears than they did last season if they want to spoil Jim Grobe’s Big 12 debut as Baylor's interim head coach.
Oklahoma State at Baylor
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Baylor -8
1. Where are Baylor’s Big Plays?
The Bears’ entire identity has been built around its prolific offense. Under Art Briles, the Bears developed a deserved reputation for their ability to get to the end zone in a hurry. They would chew up yardage in chunks, consistently finishing among the national leaders in offensive yards per play. Through three games this season, however, BU is averaging 6.17 yards per play, its lowest mark since 2009.
2. Where’s OSU’s Running Game?
The Cowboys’ ability to move the ball on the ground has slowly eroded over time, and they’ve shown no signs of reversing the trend this season. OSU pounded out all of 3.06 yards per rushing attempt in its first three games of the year against Southeastern Louisiana, Central Michigan and Pittsburgh - not exactly a Steel Curtain in the bunch. OSU head coach Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich need to find a spark in the running game, or it will be a long year in Big 12 play.
3. Where are the Bears’ Heads At?
Mired in scandal for more than a year, BU’s football program has found avoiding controversy to be almost impossible. Last week, it was Briles and Shawn Oakman showing up for the game against Rice. This week, it was Jim Grobe’s spat with the press over Oakman’s aforementioned appearance.
So much noise away from the field eventually impacts a team’s play on it. We’ll see if the Bears have crossed that threshold yet.
The flashy uniforms and spread offenses of these two teams look familiar. The results this season do not.
Both Baylor and Oklahoma State appear to be fielding low-calorie versions of recent teams. Quite simply, they’re missing their usual potency.
With an arsenal of studs at the skill positions such as running back Shock Linwood and receiver KD Cannon, the Bears have managed to retain just a little bit more of their bite. Meanwhile, OSU has offered little reason to believe its offense can stay on schedule, which is trouble in hostile territory.
Eventually, attrition and distractions will catch up with Baylor this season. Assuming that doesn’t happen this weekend, the Bears should start off conference play with a win.
Prediction: Baylor 38, Oklahoma State 28
— 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.