Big 12 Championship Game Preview | #5 Oklahoma State v. #9 Baylor: How To Watch, Odds, Predictions, & Storylines

Kickoff: 11 AM CT

Location:  AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

Television: ABC

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Twitter: Follow @HeartlandPokes for live-tweets during the game

The #5 Oklahoma State Cowboys are on the brink of being selected to their first ever College Football Playoff, but before they even have an opportunity at that, they have to take care of business in Arlington as they take on the #9 Baylor Bears for the Big 12 Championship. This is the first ever appearance in the Big 12 title game for the Cowboys, but that doesn’t mean they don’t belong there. After taking care of business last week in Bedlam, Oklahoma State touts an 11-1 record, and they are a 5.5-point favorite over the 10-2 Baylor Bears.

This game is slated as a defensive matchup, but don’t count out these offenses. Both Oklahoma State and Baylor have offensive playmakers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if this one turned into an old fashioned Big 12 shootout.

Why the Cowboys SHOULD Win

The most obvious reason that Oklahoma State should win this game is the elite defense. The Cowboys rank first in the entire country in sacks, tackles for loss, and 3rd down conversion percent defense; they rank 3rd in total defense and 10+ yard plays allowed; they rank 5th in scoring defense and first downs defense; they rank 6th in rushing defense; and last, but not least, they rank 7th in 4th down conversion percent defense and 12th in passing defense.

Baylor scored 14 points in the first meeting between these two teams, and while the Bears have improved, I still don’t see them scoring too much more than that. Also, Baylor isn’t the only team that’s improved. Specifically, the Cowboys have drastically improved their offense.

Quarterback Spencer Sanders is playing at a much more efficient rate, and perhaps more importantly, he’s playing with a ton of confidence lately. When the pass game isn’t really working out, Sanders has been incredibly successful at picking up extra yards on the ground, and I think he might have a chance to run wild on the biggest stage of his football career. Now add Jaylen Warren to the mix.

Warren played in Bedlam last weekend, and he had a fairly successful day, particularly in spite of playing with a clear injury. If he’s anywhere close to healthy, look out, because the Cowboys are going to try to run the ball a lot.

In head coach Mike Gundy’s career at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys are 113-26 when outrushing the opponent. Baylor has the best rushing team in the conference, but Oklahoma State has the best rushing defense in the conference, so if the Cowboys are able to outgain the Bears on the ground, then you can probably chalk it up as a win for the nation’s brightest orange.

Why the Bears COULD Win

Baylor running back Abram Smith is going to be the key for the Bears in the Big 12 Championship Game. In 12 games, Smith has run for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he’s the workhorse for this offense. In his first meeting with Oklahoma State, he was held in check for 97 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, but the touchdown carry was a 55-yarder. Take that one away, and he wasn’t able to get much done against the Cowboy defense.

Oklahoma State touts the best defense in the conference, including the best run defense, holding opponents to under 100 yards rushing per game. Baylor has no chance at winning this game if they cannot find some success running the ball. The Bears have a solid offensive line, allowing just one sack per game, but the Cowboys were able to get their hands on an elusive Caleb Williams multiple times last week. Gerry Bohanon is an athlete, but he’s going to need some help from the run game in order to have the ability to throw the ball as well.

If the Bears can get the run game going and open up the offense, they very well could sneak past Oklahoma State. Still, I don’t see that happening.

Staff Predictions

Staff Score Predictions

Craig30-17 Oklahoma State
Matt26-25 Oklahoma State
Rich37-27 Oklahoma State
Zack34-24 Oklahoma State

An Oklahoma State Win Would…

  • Secure its 12th conference championship since 1926 and its first since 2011. It would also mark OSU’s second Big 12 title.
  • Make it a one-loss Big 12 champion. Each of the last three one-loss Big 12 champions have earned a spot in the CFP.
  • Give the Cowboys three wins over teams ranked in this week’s AP Top 13.
  • Mark its fifth over an opponent ranked in the AP Top 25 this season. To this point, only Oklahoma State, Georgia and Alabama have four AP top 25 wins.
  • Mark the Cowboys’ sixth win over an opponent with a winning record this season.
  • Mark the Cowboys’ eighth win over a bowl-eligible opponent this season.
  • Give OSU wins vs. AP top-10 opponents in back-to-back games for the second time in school history.
  • Tie the school record for most wins in a season. OSU also won 12 games in 2011.
  • Make OSU 15-5 in its past 20 games vs. AP Top 25 teams.
  • Mark the Cowboys’ 10th win over an AP Top 10 team since 2008.
  • Make OSU 14-1 in its past 15 games overall, dating back to the 2020 season.
  • Mark Mike Gundy’s 36th career win vs. AP Top 25 opponents. Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are the only other active coaches with more wins over AP Top 25 teams at their current schools.
  • Give OSU two wins against one opponent in the same season for the first time in school history.
  • Mark the fifth win in school history in a game between two teams ranked in the AP Top 10.
  • Make OSU 8-2 in its past 10 games when both teams are ranked in the AP Top 25.

Notable Streaks and Trends Entering the Game

  • OSU is averaging more than 40 points and more than 450 yards of offense in its past five games.
  • OSU has outscored its last five opponents by a combined margin of 202-56, which amounts to an average score of 40-11.
  • In its last five games, OSU has thrown 12 touchdown passes against just three interceptions.
  • OSU has given up just four offensive touchdowns in the last 20 quarters of play.
  • OSU has held its last five opponents to 12-for-71 on third down (16.9 percent).
  • OSU has held three of its last five opponents under 2.9 yards per play.
  • OSU has held three of its last five opponents under 150 yards of total offense. No other FBS teams has held three opponents under 150 yards this season.
  • OSU has held six of its last 10 opponents under 100 yards rushing.
  • OSU has held seven of its last nine opponents under 200 yards passing.
  • OSU has held 21 of its last 23 Big 12 opponents under their season scoring average.
  • OSU has won 79 consecutive games when holding its opponent to fewer than 20 points, dating back to Sept. 13, 2003 – the longest active stretch of time in the FBS and longest since at least 1980.
  • OSU has held its opponent scoreless on its game-opening drive in 23 of its past 29 games.
  • OSU has held its opponent to less than a 50 percent third down conversion rate in 23 straight games.
  • OSU has held its opponent to fewer than 20 first downs in 10 games this season.
  • Malcolm Rodriguez has recorded at least five tackles in 19 of his last 20 games.
  • OSU is 31-11 in its past 42 games decided by fewer than 10 points.
  • OSU is 39-6 in its last 45 games when leading at halftime, dating back to Sept. 17, 2016.
  • Dating back to 2005, OSU is 43-4 when not committing a turnover.
  • Dating back to 2008, OSU is 69-8 when winning the turnover battle.
  • OSU has won three of its last four overtime games.
  • OSU has forced 25 turnovers in its past 16 games.

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