We've talked about the revenge factor. We've talked about how bad the Baylor defense is this year. Well, to be fair, everyone has talked about how bad the Baylor defense is this year. However, as bad as their defense may the offense they'll bring to town is anything but awful.
The Bears currently rank at the top or near too it in a plethora of offensive statistical categories. Nick Florence has kept things rolling quite well following the loss of last year's Heisman Trophy winner. Terrance Williams is a legitimate NFL 1st round draft pick and Tevin Reese is not too shabby in his own right. Add in former highly touted running back recruit Lache Seastrunk, who has seen an increase in carries as of late, and the Bears will have plenty to throw at this Oklahoma defense.
It always seems somewhat foolish to try and simplify a game in which countless things will be happening down to something as arbitrary as five simple keys to victory, but we're going to do it anyway. Get excited.
Beware of Mother Nature - Weather is going to play some kind of role in this game. Looking at the forecast for Saturday afternoon, temperature won't be the issue but as we've all come to know quite well the wind is another story. There are predictions of winds up to thirty miles per hour and if accurate that could certainly create some havoc with both teams' passing games.
This does not mean Oklahoma will be unable to pass the ball, I mean let's face it this is Josh Heupel we're talking about here, but doing so down the field may prove to be difficult. They should still be able to find success with some short and/or intermediate routes, getting the ball to guys in space and allowing them to make plays. The wind however does conveniently leads us into our next point.
Run, run, run the ball - We won't really know about Damien Williams until the game starts, but I think it would be foolish to expect him anywhere close to 100% after the way he was hobbling around in last week's game. So will we see more of Brennan Clay for a second consecutive week and can put up big numbers? You have to like his, or any of OU's running backs for that matter, against this Baylor defense.
Clay had success running between the tackles last week against Iowa State, but that really came later in the game once the OU offense had worn down Iowa State's defense. Where he had the most success early in the game was off tackle and attacking the edge, which was actually something we haven't seen much of this year (also something we predicted in this post last week). Expect more of the same Saturday afternoon as Baylor plays a very similar 4-2-5 to that which Oklahoma employs and should be a formation the Sooners can have success running against.
If Williams can't go or is still favoring that ankle, expect Clay to shoulder most of the load once again. Maybe we see more of Dom Whaley than just the handful of plays in was in for last week against the Cyclones, but that might be a stretch given how reluctant the coaches have appeared to be in putting him back out there. Wait, possibly Roy Finch you say? <<<crickets chirping>>>
(I will also put it out there that I have a sneaking suspicion we could see another monster game from Trey Millard. I think he could absolutely abuse this Baylor defense. Maybe I'll look stupid for even putting it out there if he gets his typical two touches, but if we see another Texas-type performance just remember where you heard it.)
Frank Shannon & Aaron Franklin - This was something we discussed on the podcast Thursday night and something we absolutely must see on Saturday. If Baylor is going to spend a majority of the game in three and four wide sets, Shannon and Franklin should play a significant role in this game. They've both become a fixture of this defense when teams line up with multiple receivers on the field and/or in obvious passing situations, so there should be no reason to alter that approach this week.
If you can sense my hesitation there it's not so subtly related to one Tom Wort. My fear is that they leave him in on first and second down and Baylor repeatedly exploits it. I'm not advocating Wort to be benched as I think there will definitely be situations in this game where he can be effective, but this is not a match-up that pairs particularly well with his skill set.
Mind you, I'm not (nor have I ever or will ever be) a fan of linebackers being asked to cover wide receivers in the first place. However, we all know that's something that will never change with this OU defense. So if it has to happen, it needs to be someone who has a chance of doing so with some modicum of success. No offense to Mr. Wort, but he is not that someone.
Harass Nick Florence - This isn't even so much about getting sacks, though that would certainly be nice, as much as it is making him uncomfortable. Be that forcing him to throw on the run, getting him outside the pocket, and/or getting him on the ground (in a legal fashion, of course).
Oklahoma has clearly had an issue all season in registering sacks, so they'll probably have to manufacture a pass rush via the blitz on Saturday much like they've most of the season. You would hope that they've learned from their two losses that depending solely on their front four isn't likely to get the job done. They are going to have to bring an extra guy or two and take some chances. Fortunately, when you have guys like Aaron Colvin, Demontre Hurst, and Tony Jefferson in your secondary you can afford to do so even with the formidable threat Baylor will present.
No man left behind (you) - The corny analogy aside, I think you know where we're going here. It goes without saying last year's OU defense had some issues allowing Baylor receivers to get behind them. It ultimately cost the Sooners the game and it wasn't just on that final throw from Robert Griffin. There were multiple instances in the game where it happened and Baylor was able to capitalize on just about all of them.
This year's defense has been significantly improved under the direction of Mike Stoops and Griffin alone not being out there will make it at least somewhat easier to defend. The wind could also help with defending this aspect of the Baylor offense, but it's fair to assume this was a focus of the defensive coaches all week.