Oklahoma at Baylor - Keeping Pace Is The Name Of The Game

The Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears are averaging a combined 85.7 points per game so naturally when the two hook it up on the field in Waco this Saturday night the spotlight will be on the offenses while the pressure will be on the defenses. Typically that would put the Bears in a bad spot (Baylor is 8th in the Big 12 in scoring defense) but recent injuries to some of Oklahoma's offensive stars may give the Bears a puncher's chance. 

The Players

Robert Griffin III - Fourth in the Big XII in passing yards (3,093) and number one in completion percentage (74.2%). Has 29 touchdowns to 5 interceptions on the season.

Landry Jones - Second in the Big XII in passing yards (3,349) and in passing touchdowns as well (28). Has been sacked a league low 3 times. 

Terrance Ganaway - Averages 6 yards per carry and has scored 10 rushing touchdowns on the season. 

Dominique Whaley - Averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 104.5 rushing yards per game. Suffered a season ending broken leg against Kansas State on October 29th. 

Kendall Wright - Third in the Big XII in total receiving yards (1,073), averages 119.2 yards per game and 13.2 yards per reception. Has 9 receiving touchdowns on the season. 

Ryan Broyles - Leads the Big XII in total receiving yards (1,157), averaged 128.6 yards per game and 13.9 yards per reception. Has 10 receiving touchdowns on the season. Suffered a season ending knee injury against Texas A&M on November 5th. 

When it comes to the leading passer, rusher and receiver the Sooners are down two of the three with season ending injuries. Suddenly Baylor isn't faced with the task of stopping Oklahoma's vaunted offense. Instead the Bears are faced with the task of stopping Oklahoma's vaunted offense minus two of the three statistical leaders. I'm pretty sure the Baylor defensive coaches are alright with that and I'm fairly confident that the OU offensive coaches will be up to the challenge. 

Bob Stoops, Josh Heupel and company are going to get creative while also finding a few players to step up and carry more of a workload while also making big plays. Roy Finch has this ability in the running game and the good news is that Baylor struggles more against the rush than the pass. The Bears are eighth in the Big XII in rush defense, giving up 5.5 yards per carry and 220 yards per game on the ground. This is where the Baylor defensive coaches must start game planning to stop the Sooner offense. If Oklahoma is able to move the ball at will on the ground then play-action becomes that much more dangerous as does exploiting 1-on-1 match-ups in the passing game.

If Baylor can find a way to limit Oklahoma's rushing attack then it forces the Sooners to go to the air without the NCAA's all-time receptions leader. Of course to do so means committing an extra player into the box and thus leaving someone in 1-on-1 or in a soft zone on defense. Its possible, but not probable, to limit Oklahoma's rushing attack and use double coverage schemes against the pass all at the same time. This is the direction Baylor has to go though because 1) the Oklahoma running game is going to be there and 2) the Sooners have to prove they can fill the void left by Ryan Broyles.

Kenny Stills now becomes Oklahoma's primary target but you also have to consider that he's been banged up quite a bit already this season. Jaz Reynolds has come on strong this season and received my vote for the surprise player of the year. He's third on the team in receiving yards and is just 9 receptions behind Stills while leading the team with 18 yards per reception. The problem is that Oklahoma has moved from having three legitimately proven receiving threats to now just having two. Who's going to pick up the slack? Well, Dejuan Miller is on tap as one possibility. The other is that Oklahoma could rediscover the tight end as a receiving target and not just an additional blocker. The wild card here is Trey Millard who could see an increased role in both the running and receiving games. 

An advantage that Oklahoma has in this game is that at 19.8 points surrendered per game the Sooners have the top scoring defense in the conference. However, we saw four weeks ago how much missing a few starters can change the course of a game when Texas Tech had its way with Oklahoma's defense playing backups along the line, linebackers and in the secondary. Even with Oklahoma's defense being healthy now, the Bears are going to score Saturday night Oklahoma must be able to keep pace until the defensive stops start coming along. In order to do that the Sooner coaches must do the following against the Baylor defense...

1) Run the ball - As already stated, it all starts right here. Oklahoma has to avoid being one dimensional at all costs and that starts with running the ball. An effective running game will keep the Baylor defense on its hills which will free up the passing game to do its thing. If Baylor can prevent the Sooners from running the ball then its the Oklahoma offense that gets put on its heels without their go-to guy in the lineup. 

2) Exploit 1-on-1 - Somewhere a Baylor defender is going to be left on an island and it most likely won't be over Kenny Stills. That means Landry Jones is going to have to read through his progressions and quickly find the mismatch. 

3) Protect the quarterback - It may take Jones just a second or two longer to find his receiver now. That might as well be an eternity when you're pass blocking. The last thing we need to see is a rattled quarterback trying to find a new go-to receiver. 

4) Start short and intermediate and then go from there - Its all about building confidence and trust! We may not like the short passes as much as the long ball but chemistry is build on completions and high percentage passes are the way to get that started. 

5) Use the tight ends - Quite possibly the most undervalued offensive assets the Sooners have the tight ends become even more dangerous when the your opponent is expecting you to run the ball. 

If Baylor can prevent Oklahoma from doing the above then their offense will have them in prime position to pull off the upset. Granted that's a tall order for the Bears' coaching staff but you'd have to admit that its a little easier now than when Whaley and Broyles were in the lineup. 

 

Don’t forget to show support for your favorite coach by voting him as the 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year at www.coachoftheyear.com

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