Standing in the way of Oklahoma’s fifth consecutive Big 12 championship are the Baylor Bears who infamously lost a 25-point lead to the Sooners on November 16th. Now Oklahoma prepares to face the Bears for a second time and the question everyone is asking is will the Sooners look like the first half or second half team from that night?
While I’ve got my own theories as to how Oklahoma’s offense contributed more to Baylor’s first half success than than anything else, the fact remains that the Bears did find success. Therefore the Sooners must be prepared for Charlie Brewer and company and Oklahoma’s ability to do the three following things is going to greatly contribute to their success, or lack of, in this game.
Stop The Run!
This is the most important aspect in facing Baylor. If you can control the line of scrimmage, win first and second down by stopping the run, then their offense jams up a bit.
Brewer was the leading rusher for the Bears the first time around (17 carries/65 yards) but JaMycal Hasty showed explosiveness by going for 42 yards on just three carries.
I would expect Baylor to have a more concentrated effort on using their stable of backs from the start this Saturday. As a team the Bears are averaging 5.0 yards per carry but Hasty and John Lovett are going for 6.1 and 6.4 yards per carry respectively.
Look for Oklahoma to try and control the line of scrimmage and use linebackers to fill gaps on first and second down in an effort to but Baylor in third and long situations. If the Sooners are able to succeed at this then they will have eliminated a crucial aspect of the Baylor offense and force an offensive line that has allowed 28 quarterback sacks this season to protect Brewer on obvious passing downs.
Take Away The Underneath Routes And Win The 50/50 Balls
Baylor’s receiving corps is super impressive. Denzel Mims (6-3/215) has 945 yards and 11 touchdowns on 61 receptions (15.5 YPC). Tyquan Thornton (6-3/176) has 682 yards and 4 touchdowns on 39 receptions (17.5 YPC). R.J. Sneed (6-1/200) has 412 yards and three touchdowns on 37 receptions (11.1 YPC). That trio is extremely dangerous before you even throw Chris Platt (5-11/172) into the mix.
This group absolutely has the ability to stretch the field and the Bears like to set that up by getting the ball to them in space, on short/underneath routes, and then let them use their speed to turn it into a big gain.
Look for Oklahoma to press up the safeties a bit in an effort to try and take away this option for the Bears. In doing so, they’ll force Brewer to either tuck and run or stand under pressure to throw the deep route. That’s where the Sooners have to win battles.
If Brewer runs then it has to be a minimum gain. If he stands under pressure to throw the deep ball then it needs to result in a sack or incompletion. If Baylor gets into a passing groove then this is going to be an extremely close finish. Don’t forget, the Sooners are also playing for some style points.
Make The Tackle!
This one key factor can blow a good defensive game plan up. If guys are in position and fail to tackle then it will always, always burn you. No one knows that better than the University of Oklahoma and its football fans. Tackling in space, in a crowd, at the line of scrimmage, or behind the line of scrimmage is paramount to success. It doesn’t matter where the ball carrier is met, he must be brought down. The Bears have plenty of speed that can turn a potential three-yard loss into a 15-yard gain.
If Oklahoma fails to do any of these three then the Bears will have more than a puncher’s chance at pulling the upset. However, if the Sooners do the first two and not this third one then they’re putting themselves in a very bad spot as well.
Players To Watch
You have to start with Ronnie Perkins here. He seemed unstoppable in Oklahoma’s first match against the Bears and will be crucial on passing downs.
Kenneth Murray is instrumental to stopping the run. He paced Oklahoma’s defense with 8 total tackles in Waco.
Parnell Motley is the guy that opposing teams seem to like picking on. He’ll have his shots, much like the Bedlam game, to be a big factor of Oklahoma’s defense.
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