Oklahoma football 2017 kickoff preview: Part I

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Baker Mayfield
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Baker Mayfield /
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PHOENIX, AZ – DECEMBER 27: Quarterback Zach Smith
PHOENIX, AZ – DECEMBER 27: Quarterback Zach Smith /

September 23 – The Big 12 title chase begins In Waco

Oklahoma commences 2017 Big 12 Conference play with a trip to Waco, Texas to face the Baylor Bears. And even though the Sooners handily beat the Bears last season, 45 – 24, there’s no doubt that Baylor is always a dangerous opponent, especially playing at home.

The Bears enter 2017 with a new head coach (Matt Rhule) and the dark cloud of serious sexual assault allegations continuing to hover over the program. How they respond will have a lot to say about the Baylor’s 2017 Big 12 prospects.

Defensively, the much maligned 2016 edition of the Sooner defense allowed 504 total yards against the Bears, which works out to just about an average performance for the 2016 Sooner defense in yards per play. On the other hand, the 2016 Sooner offense hummed against the Bears, with a balanced attack that delivered 300 passing yards and 253 rushing yards.

Quarterback Zach Smith, who saw action for Baylor after Seth Russell went down with an injury, was competent if not spectacular for the remainder of the Bear’s 2016 schedule, passing for 1,526 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. With more seasoning, he will be a greater threat in 2017, so Mike Stoop’s defense must rise to the occasion.

If the Oklahoma defense builds on its stellar performance against Auburn in the 2016 Sugar Bowl and continues to improve in 2017, the Sooners should have no issues dispatching the Bears. Baylor has had difficulty slowing down the Sooner offense the past couple of seasons.

The Oklahoma coaching staff is well aware that a serious 2017 playoff run depends on winning the Big 12, and that quest begins in Waco.

Prediction: Sooners 35, Bears 10