Baylor Bears (7-1 SU, 5-2-1 ATS) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (6-2 SU, 4-4 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date and Time: Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 12:00PM EST
Where: Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports 1
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BAY +4.5/OKLA -4.5
Over/Under Total: Off
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In a massive Big 12 match-up on Saturday, the 7-1 Baylor Bears come to Norman to take on the 6-2 Oklahoma Sooners. The winner of this game can still have great things happen this season, while the loser may become an afterthought in the top heavy Big 12. Both teams posted wins on Saturday that followed a loss. Baylor beat Kansas 60-14, while Oklahoma beat up on Iowa State, 59-14, to help atone for their heartbreaking loss in their previous game to Kansas State.
The only thing separating Baylor from an unbeaten season was the 41-27 road loss to West Virginia. Their normally-high-flying offense was stymied, which Oklahoma is hoping will happen again when in Norman on Saturday. The Sooners will be facing the top-scoring offense in all of college football, an offense that is averaging over 50 points per game.
One of the first things that jumps out in the analysis of this game is the matchup problem between the Bears aerial attack and the leaky pass-defense of Oklahoma. In games against West Virginia, Texas, and TCU, opposing quarterbacks had a field day against this Oklahoma pass-D. With Baylor QB Bryce Petty hitting a groove, one may wonder if the Sooners can stem the tide.
But again, Baylor is one of those teams that seems a notch or two better when in the friendly confines of home. Its hard to forget what happened when Baylor faced a good team in West Virginia in the midst of a frothing road crowd. They werent themselves. And any form of that dynamic on Saturday will make it awfully tough on Baylor.
The Sooners looked great on Saturday beating up on the hapless Cyclones defense. QB Trevor Knight threw for 3 touchdowns, while running for 3 more, as he rushed for 146 yards. The run game was unstoppable. In addition to Knights performance on the ground, the Sooners also got a 144-yard performance from Alex Ross and 110 from Samaje Perine.
Baylors defense has been fairly stout. There have been times where they have been exploited, namely in the TCU game, but theyre still several levels above the Iowa State defense. And when the Bears have collapsed, its been a result of the opposing teams passing-attack. The Sooners can certainly air out the ball to some degree, but will obviously need their ground-game to take hold and thats a little tougher against Baylor.
Baylor also offers a high degree of balance on offense. Petty has been doing better and has 20 TD throws against only 3 interceptions. But RB Shock Linwood has run for 10 touchdowns, with 5 others having 3 touchdowns on the ground. Again, they are the top-scoring offense in the country. But several years into the Baylor renaissance, its worth asking why they arent able to graduate to the absolute elite in college football. A few times a year, the high-flying offense doesnt materialize. As a result, the defense suffers and gives up a ton of points.
Baylor seemed to take it to the next level when they overcame a ridiculous 4th-quarter deficit to TCU, storming back for the unlikely win. That showed a Baylor we hadnt seen, a team that can reverse momentum when things are spiraling downward. But after following that with a uninspiring loss to West Virginia, Baylor again found themselves on the outside looking in. With games against Oklahoma this week and top-ten Kansas State in early-December, they still have time to make a case. It needs to start here with a big win.
One has to figure Baylor is going to be be able to put up points against an Oklahoma pass-defense that appears to be over their heads in this matchup. At some point, the Oklahoma offense will have to be prolific. And that raises the question of WR Sterling Shepards health, as he hurt his leg against Iowa State. Hes nearing 1000 yards receiving, with the next-best receiver under 400 yards, so if hes out or compromised, its bad news for an Oklahoma aerial attack that already appears to be outgunned.
Beyond the match-ups of the players is an interesting coaching battle between Baylors Art Briles and Oklahomas Bob Stoops. This is a critical late-season game that should give rise to a peak effort from both coaches. The balance of Oklahomas offense will be of great use and keep Oklahoma from losing touch with Baylor. But the Bears will have success in the air and Oklahoma may struggle to keep a lid on it all. Beating Oklahoma at home in a critical game is not something anyone can really count on. A loss here would really put Oklahomas 2014 season in the letdown category. But Baylor has some urgency, as well, and in a game where picking a winner is difficult, Im inclined to take the points. After all, getting points when taking the nations most-potent offense isnt that bad of a feeling.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im taking the Baylor Bears plus 4.5 points.