Oklahoma football: Three keys to a Sooner win over No. 18 Baylor

Dec 7, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners fans during the second half against the Baylor Bears in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners fans during the second half against the Baylor Bears in the 2019 Big 12 Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

After a brief rest stop from an up-and-down — but undefeated — nine-game stretch, the Oklahoma football program’s 2021 championship journey resumes with a road trip down I-35 and over to Waco, Texas, where a tough and tested group of Baylor Bears await the Sooners.

The 18th-ranked Bears represent Oklahoma’s biggest challenge so far this season, and the college football world will be closely watching to see if the Sooners are as good as their 9-0 record says they are.

The Sooners are a five-point (-5.0) favorite. according to the WynnBET Sportsbook, but many college football experts believe the game will be closer than that.

The game is set for an 11 a.m. kickoff, the fifth time this season Oklahoma has been scheduled to play in the early time slot in the Saturday college football schedule.

A win against Baylor would give the Sooners at least 10 wins for the 41st time in the 127-year history of Oklahoma football

Here are three keys to the game for an Oklahoma win:

Caleb Williams plays a clean game

For the remainder of the season, true freshman quarterback Caleb Williams will

be the key figure in Oklahoma’s offensive success. He has the skill and talent to take over a game with his arm as well as his legs. Williams did not receive his first start until the sixth game this season, but he is already being talked about as a Heisman candidate and has been named a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.

All eyes will be on the Sooner quarterback in this one. Will he be able to handle the pressure and defensive disguises that Baylor is certain to show him. Entering the game, Williams has completed 73 percent of his passes this season and has 14 touchdowns with just one interception. The young quarterback will need to play a clean game and make good decisions with the ball. If he does that, Oklahoma should roll offensively and win the game.

Offensive line wins the battle of the trenches

The Sooner offensive line played perhaps its best game of the year in the Oklahoma two weeks ago win over Texas Tech. Winning the battle of the trenches, both on offense and defense, is a big factor in every winning performance.

It took some time to settle on the best combination of O-linemen, but the Sooners appear to have figured it out, and the time couldn’t be better with the Sooners having to face the three best defenses in the Big 12 over the next three weeks.

Pro Football Focus ranks the Oklahoma offensive line as the eighth best in college football through Week 10. Moreover, PFF rates OU LT Anton Harrison and RT Tyrese Robinson as No. 5 and No. 8, respectively among all college offensive linemen for pass blocking.

On Saturday against Baylor, OU is also going to have to do a good job opening up running lanes for Kennedy Brooks, Eric Gray and Marcus Major to provide balance to the offense.

Since Caleb Williams took over at starting quarterback in the Texas game, the Sooner O-line has allowed just five sacks.

The Sooner offensive line will need to be at its best for the Sooners to win at Baylor.

Defensive line slows the powerful Baylor run game

The strength of Oklahoma’s 63rd-ranked  defense rests in the front seven, and that group will be severely tested on Saturday by the Baylor rushing attack, which averages 230.9 yards per game and ranks seventh nationally. The Baylor running backs are averaging over five yards per carry. The ability to run the ball effectively and consistently is the best way to limit OU possessions and keep the Sooner offense watching from the sidelines.

Oklahoma has done an outstanding job shutting down the opponent’s run game this season, holding six of nine opponents to 104 yards or less on the ground. It will be strength against strength. The matchup between the Oklahoma defensive line and the Baylor offensive line may be the best matchup of the game.

In addition to stopping the run, the Sooners need to be able to get pressure on Baylor fourth-year junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon, who has only been sacked six times this season.

It is imperative for the Sooners’ front six or seven to win this battle and not let the Baylor offense establish  a rhythm.