OU vs. Baylor: Where Do the Advantages Lie?


A year ago at this time – in actuality a few weeks earlier – OU vs. Baylor was taking place in Norman, Okla., and there more than a few who believed that was all the impetus the Sooners needed to deal a knockout blow to arguably the Big 12’s most explosive team.

Oh, there was a knockout blow, all right. But it was Baylor that did all the punching, not the hometown Sooners.

Nov 8, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops speaks with Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles before the game at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This year, the venues are reversed and the scene shifts to Waco, Texas, where the home-field advantage belongs to Baylor and, again, a good number of college experts believe that factor will be the deciding edge in what shapes up as the biggest game this season for both teams. Baylor has won 13 consecutive home games against Big 12 teams and is a perfect 10-0 since moving into its new on-campus facility, McLane Stadium.

Ranked 6th in the current College Football Playoff standings, Baylor is the nation’s No. 1 offensive teams, averaging 57 points and 666 yards of offense per game. In each of Oklahoma’s last three games – double-digit wins over Iowa State, Kansas and Texas Tech – the Sooners’ have exceeded more 600 yards of total offense, including 710 total yards against Kansas. That has only happened three other times in OU’s long and storied football history.

As good as Baylor’s offensive numbers have been this season, Oklahoma’s are closer than many would think. Baylor is No. 1 in the nation in scoring; OU is 3rd. Baylor is 4th in rushing offense; OU is 24th in that category. Baylor is 7th nationally in pass offense; the Sooners are 11th. In total offense, Baylor is 1st; Oklahoma 6th. When you look at defensive stats, however, the order shifts: Oklahoma ranks 23rd in total defense; Baylor is 54th.

That is how the two teams stack up statistically and retrospectively when they are on offense and defense, but as we all know statistics are only a snapshot in time and reflective of past performance against different teams and in different points in time and under differing circumstances. Here is how we see the various offensive and defensive matchups going when Oklahoma and Baylor line up against each other:

When Oklahoma Runs the Ball

Over the last three games, the Sooners have really gotten their runing game going. Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon have been the primary water carriers in the ground game over the past three contests, in which OU has averaged 313 yards per game. Kansas State, with the Big 12’s 8th best rushing offense, gashed the Baylor defense for 258 yards in the Bears’ last outing. The Sooner running game is much better than K-State’s. If OU has the same kind of success on the ground that K-State did, it will only make the Sooner passing attack more effective and allow OU to play more ball control and keep Baylor’s high-powered offense on the sidelines. Advantage Oklahoma

When Oklahoma Passes the Ball

Nov 7, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks to pass the ball against the Iowa State Cyclones during the second quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma passing game is considerably better than it was the last two times these two teams met. The Sooners averaged just 150 passing yard in those two blowout losses. With Baker Mayfield at the controls and OU’s new Air Raid offense, Oklahoma is averaging 338 passing yards per game. In seven of the Sooners’ nine games this season, Mayfield has thrown at least three touchdown passes and has just four interceptions in 285 pass attempts. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is an impressive 28/4. Seventeen different Oklahoma receivers have caught a pass this season and seven receivers have receptions in the double digits. Common opponent Texas Tech torched the Baylor defense for 530 passing yards in a game this season. The Red Raiders had 235 passing yards in a loss to Oklahoma. Advantage Oklahoma

When Baylor Runs the Ball

Junior running back Shock Linwood had a breakout game two years ago, the last time Oklahoma played at Baylor. Linwood totaled 184 yards on the ground in that game, mostly in the second half as a replacement for the Bears’ top two running backs, both of whom were injured in the game. Linwood was held to 85 yards against the Sooners last season, but he is on a terror again in 2015, leading the Big 12 with an average of 130 yards per game. Let’s face it, Linwood is a load to bring down, and with Baylor’s potent passing game, you are caught in between trying to defend the run while also being spread out to defend a bevy of talented receivers who are among the best in college football. The Oklahoma run defense has been sporadic this season, but has been really solid in the Sooners recent wins. Linwood will be the OU front seven’s toughest challenge of the season, bar none. Advantage Baylor

When Baylor Passes the Ball

Nov 5, 2015; Manhattan, KS, USA; Baylor Bears return specialist Corey Coleman (1) carries the ball as Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Sean Newlan (29) defends during the first half at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears are down to their backup quarterback after the season-ending injury to starting QB Seth Russell. They didn’t look any worse for it against Kansas State as freshman Jarrett Stidham stepped up and led the Bears to a seven-point road victory. Stidham looked very proficient, especially for being a first-year player in his first career college start, but the jury is still out on what he will be like against the best teams in the Big 12, starting with the Sooners. Essentially, though, all the young QB is being asked to do is manage the offense. With Corey Coleman and KD Cannon and a host of other talented receivers to get the ball to, Baylor seemingly remains as dangerous as ever, regardless of who is delivering the football through the air. The Bears rank seventh nationally, averaging 356 passing yards per game. They will be going up against the country’s 16th-best pass defense in Oklahoma. Coleman can beat you all by himself. Arguably the most dangerous big-play receiver in the Big 12, Coleman has 20 touchdown catches in the first eight Baylor games, over two per game. Advantage Baylor

Special Teams

With two high-scoring teams like Oklahoma and Baylor, touchdowns are more frequent than having to settle for field goals. But in big games like this one, field goals become equally important and can even be the difference late if the contest is close. Both teams have talented field goal kickers. Austin Seibert of Oklahoma and Chris Callahan do the field-goal kicking for the Sooners and Bears, respectively. Seibert has attempted more field goals and has been accurate on 80 percent of them. Callahan  is just six of eight, but that is because the Bears haven’t had to settle for many field goals. The punting, which is also Seibert’s responsibility for the Sooners, is fairly even, although the punt game could play a key role in this contest in establishing field position. Advantage Even


Bob Stoops is 13-3 against Baylor. That is the most for the OU head coach against any opponent. He is 52-27 against teams ranked in the nation’s top 25. Those 52 victories against ranked teams are the second most in the country (to LSU’s 57) over the 17 seasons Stoops’ has been the Sooners’ head coach. Art Briles has led a Baylor team that was the worst in the Big 12 when he took over in 2008 to back-to-back 8-1 seasons and a couple of conference championships. In the last four seasons, the Bears have finished either first or second in the country in total offense. Long-term here, the advantage would go to the Sooners, but as of late, Briles has had Big Game Bob’s and the Sooners number. I’m going to call this one even. Advantage Even

For what it’s worth

When Oklahoma scores 30 or more points in a game, the Sooners are 145-9 under Bob Stoops; when they score 40 or more, they are 94-1. On the other end of the scale, though, when OU scores 20 or fewer points, the Sooners’ record is 10-22 with Stoops as head coach.

Under Art Briles, Baylor is 53-6 when leading at halftime, but 9-26 when trailing its opponent at the half. When the Bears hold their opponent under 20 points, they are 25-0 with Briles as head coach. When their opponent scores 20 or more points, however, the Bears are just 38-34 under Briles.