Can Oklahoma State overcome their recent struggles in Waco against Baylor?
Kickoff is at 3:30 PM EST on 10/1 (FOX)
Game of the Week: #9 Oklahoma State @ #16 Baylor
After a saddening Week 4 for me, as an Oklahoma fan, I find myself covering two conference foes that face-off as a rematch of the 2021 Big 12 Championship game, where Oklahoma State came within six inches of taking home the trophy. Although I don't believe it will be, we could be witnessing a preview of the 2022 Big 12 Championship with the fall of Oklahoma in Week 4. Nonetheless, this Week 5 matchup has potential to be the game of week not only for us at the Peanut Gallery, but also for any college football fan.
I'm going to do my best to refrain from bias in this matchup, but OK State has not impressed me in 2022. With the loss of Jim Knowles (defensive coordinator that led them to an 11-2 record in 2021) to the real OSU (THE Ohio State University), the Cowboys defense has looked lackluster in the depth department. I know it's hard to judge a team based on their weaker opponents, but the challenge Central Michigan gave Oklahoma State in their Week 1 matchup is quite concerning. Oklahoma State entered the 4th quarter with a 51-22 lead, before Central Michigan put up another 22 in the 4th quarter alone. I know what you're thinking, “Oklahoma State called off the dogs," and that may be true, but injuries do happen. As a Power 5 program, your 2nd/3rd/4th string guys should still have the ability to handle a Central Michigan offense, no matter what part of the game you're in.
Since then, Oklahoma State’s schedule has been soft, playing a weak Arizona State team, followed by Arkansas Pine-Bluff. I'm not sure if Oklahoma State is going to come into Saturday with “Guns-a-Blazin’” against the Baylor Bears, especially with the guy slinging the rock.
I could sit down and go on a complete tirade on Oklahoma State quarterback, senior Spencer Sanders. Sanders has been head coach Mike Gundy’s choice since he arrived on campus. Throughout his freshman year, Sanders showed a lot of promise as a dual-threat quarterback. Since then, Sanders has been an on-field disaster, so much so that OSU students were begging for backup Shane Illingworth, who transferred to the University of Nevada, to get a chance under center. However, despite popular consensus, Sanders remained the starter for the Cowboys, and is still seen as very immature in his decision-making and ball-handling skills.
The way he plays on Saturday is going to be a major factor in the final result. In the 2021 Big 12 Championship, Sanders had four completions…to the team in green. Four interceptions, and still the Cowboys came within a foot of a victory. Keep the ball in your possession against a stout, Dave Aranda-led Baylor defense, and Oklahoma State could very well walk out with their undefeated record intact on Saturday.
Sic ‘em Bears
Baylor enters Week 5 with a 3-1 record after a devastating loss against BYU in week 2, capping off what could be viewed as the greatest week of college football in recent history. Take no credit away from the Bears, though, as BYU is boasting a very good football team in 2022, playing in a future Big 12 rivalry game with BYU entering the conference in 2023. Baylor is a team I am very high on and is the team I expect Oklahoma to meet in the Big 12 Championship in 2022. However, that meeting is very dependent on a victory against Oklahoma State. Since their loss at BYU, Baylor returned home to put a beating on Texas State, then traveled to Ames, Iowa to face off against an undefeated Iowa State, walking away with a 31-24 victory over the Cyclones. I still have a lot of faith in these Bears and their great defense.
Home Field Advantage
Dave Aranda picked up exactly where previous head coach, Matt Rhule, had left off after taking an NFL job with the Carolina Panthers. Baylor was taking a huge step forward in their football program, playing Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship in 2019. Although they would lose, Matt Rhule headed to Carolina and Dave Aranda stepped in. Aranda immediately made an impact, taking the defense to a place that was similar to his 2019 defense at LSU, which took home a National Championship. Aranda came in and took down the biggest roadblock in anyone’s path in the Big 12: the Sooners. He then led his Bears to a 11-2 record, a Big 12 title game, and a win against these same Oklahoma State Cowboys.
I am now going to speak out of personal experience. In 2019, I took a trip down to Waco to watch my Sooners take on the undefeated Baylor Bears. This game would end up being the largest comeback in Oklahoma football history, as they were trailing 28-3 at the half. Nevertheless, that did not change the atmosphere and show that the Baylor students and fans put on during the game. Similar to the game Baylor won against Oklahoma in 2021, the energy in the stadium is high and the crowd is beyond loud. It's a tough environment to walk into and be unfazed. I expect Saturday to be no different, as both of these teams are highly ranked and now have a history with the 2021 Big 12 Championship. This crowd is going to be a major impact in Saturday’s matchup.
After Sheehan and I hit on our picks on back to back weeks, we both enter this game with a 2-1 record in Game of the Week predictions. This week, I am feeling chaos.
Although Baylor is favored to win with 2.5 points, it is an upset based on the most recent AP rankings. I am picking Baylor to win and cover those 2.5 points. I think this game is going to be played close, maybe even coming down to an overtime win or a last-second, game-winning field goal from the Bears. However, I would also not be shocked if the crowd gets these Baylor players fired up and Baylor puts OK State to bed early. Baylor is a program on the rise as a playoff-contending team, and even if this may not be the year, Baylor is still very good. I fully expect them to shut down the OSU hype early in Big 12 play.
Spencer Sanders threw 12 picks last season. Seven of those were thrown to the Baylor Bears, and all of them were thrown at home. Now he has to go to Waco to face the team that dominated him so completely in 2021? This could be a tough game for the senior QB, on the mental side at least.
When it comes down to brass tax though, Sanders has started 2022 on a roll. Granted, he's been beating up on bad teams, but 13 total touchdowns through three games is no joke. Baylor's pass defense has been suspect so far this season, so if he and the high-flying OK State offense can leave 2021 in the past and just focus on going 1-0 this week, the matchup actually lines up well for them.
Buuuut I don't think they do. Sorry, Charlie. I'm taking the Bears in a relatively close game, but so much that they won't cover the 2.5 points.