Got to give the people what they want.
At the request of our loyal readers here at CCM, we're going to give Baylor's game against Kansas State our 'Film Study' treatment to try and get an idea for what to expect on Thursday night. We did something similar last year in the lead up to the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M, but hopefully this game against Baylor will in no possible way resemble that disaster.
Kansas State is really the only team worth a you know what on Baylor's schedule to this point, thus it's really the only available game with which to try and evaluate them. However, it's still just one game so obviously you cannot simply take that limited sample size and draw many permanent conclusions.
So this is really about attempting to determine things more in a general sense like tendencies, personnel groupings, formations, not necessarily individual plays. Just keep that in mind as you continue reading.
* Maybe it's just my misconception, but I think some here might be surprised to learn Baylor has actually 100+ more run attempts than they do passing. Now some of that is certainly a result of their many lopsided victories and running the ball to simply keep the clock moving, but at worst they are a very balanced offense. Not the pass heavy version some might have mistakenly believed them to be.
Probably adding to said misconception are the plethora of long passing touchdown highlights we've seen all year.
* Baylor presents a VERY different type of threat at receiver than Texas Tech did, but similar to the Red Raiders allowing them a free release off the line seems like setting yourself up for failure. Because this (below) is making things WAY too easy for Baylor.
Oklahoma didn't play a ton of press coverage against Tech and I suspect the fear of getting burned deep will produce a similar result Thursday.
The main problem with that being I'm not sure even with a 5-7 yard cushion/head start the OU defensive backs can keep up with these Baylor receivers.
For as unexpectedly (outside of Aaron Colvin, of course) good as this OU secondary has been this year, they do not possess a ton of speed so this will easily be their biggest test of the season.
* Even on this first drive Baylor has done some really interesting things with their zone read option game. Like lining up a tight end as an H-back and using him as a lead blocker.
What you won't like to hear is that every single rushing play on this drive has come between the tackles. It's very early so we'll have to see if that continues, but obviously we know that is a major weakness of this OU defense after the loss of Jordan Phillips and Corey Nelson.
* Bryce Petty isn't a guy who is going to run past this OU defense, but he is definitely more than athletic enough to make plays outside the pocket with this legs. Just the fact you have to account for that, along with all their other weapons, only increases the difficulty Mike Stoops and this defensive staff are facing Thursday night.
* It's going to be hard to truly evaluate this Baylor defense because Oklahoma isn't going to have anyone on the field like Daniel Sams, who rushed the ball 30 times in this game for 199 yards. Roy Finch is probably the most realistic comp, but obviously he's not going to be lining up under center on Thursday.
* Not sure I could be any less impressed with this Baylor defense on their opening drive. It's just one series so I'll keep an open mind going forward, but they are getting abused right now from a pretty average K-State offense.
* To their credit however, they bow up on a KSU 4th & 1 inside the 10 yard line for a big stop.
* I had to go back and watch this play a couple times to truly appreciate what was going on.
If you look closely, they appear to have their tight end (No. 18) lined up as their left tackle and set their left guard (No. 68) a step back off the line of scrimmage. At the snap, you can see why he lined up like that as he pulls to his right as the lead blocker on the play helping to open up a big lane for Seastrunk to run through.
It's just a subtle little thing, but it's a good example of some of the different things Briles and this offense are more than willing to experiment with.
* As significant a threat as Tevin Reese presents, honestly the guy that would worry me the most if I were Mike Stoops is Antwan Goodley. At 5'10" 220 pounds he is a big, physical receiver, but he also has that top end speed to run by and get behind the defense.
When and/or if he gets matched up with Zack Sanchez the redshirt freshman OU defensive back is going to have his hands full.
* The more I watch of this game, the more the idea of OU's linebackers in coverage scare the ever loving bleep out of me. Baylor gives Petty a bunch of check down/outlet receivers that can't help but get the ball in space and that presents a very significant challenge for the Sooners.
* Yeah, um, remember what I was saying about not allowing Baylor's receivers a free release off the line...
...this is a pretty good example of why. Granted, this is more of a blown coverage by Kansas State, but it still shows what that kind of speed can do to you if you make zero effort to impede it.
* To illustrate my previous point on Goodley.
This isn't a particularly great throw from Petty as Goodley has to reach back for the ball, turning himself around, but still has more than enough speed to run away from the K-State defense. Impressive.
* This is an aggressive Baylor defense, primarily because they can afford to be with their quick strike offense. As a result, you can use that against them with screens, misdirection plays, the zone read, etc.
On this particular play, you can see Baylor's Ahmad Dixon crash down way too hard on Sams who obviously makes the right read in handing off to Hubert for a big gain.
However, it begs the question just how much OU and Heupel will make use of these type of plays. Aside from the "trick" plays ran in recent weeks, Heupel hasn't traditionally used many misdirection running plays. And OU's screen game is mainly run with the receivers, not running backs out of the backfield. Maybe he'll surprise us.
* Baylor doesn't record a single point in this third quarter, which was/is only the second time that has happened in a quarter their entire season (the other being their fourth quarter, up 70-7, against ULM).
* Pretty surprised Baylor got away from running between the tackles considering how well it was working for them early in the game. Unfortunately, I don't see OU being as fortunate.
* I'll be incredibly disappointed if we don't see Heupel run some option in this game. Obviously OU doesn't have an athlete like Sams running it, but even when Jake Waters has run some option this Baylor defense has struggled defending it.
We've seen OU run the options at times this year, often on third and long for some inexplicable reason, so we know it's in their arsenal of plays. I see absolutely no reason you don't at least make Baylor prove they can stop it. If they do, fine, then you adjust accordingly but in my opinion you have to make them prove it first.
* I posed the question last week on Twitter if there would be two more important players on the field for OU Thursday night than Gabe Lynn and Quentin Hayes. This play, one Baylor has run numerous times in this game, is a perfect example of why I don't believe their will be.
They are going to have to stay home and be disciplined, if they try and cheat up to help against the run on a play-action it's going to be a very long night for Oklahoma.
* From what I've seen in this game, Baylor tight end Jordan Najvar (No. 18) is immensely valuable to them and a seriously underrated versatile player. They can move him around and line him up in different spots without having to substitute. We mentioned him earlier and he's a guy they move around a lot to use as almost exclusively as a blocker (he only has four catches on the year), and a good one at that.
It's definitely not at the level, like many thought with OU and Trey Millard, where he'll lead you to the ball on every play, but they do run behind him quite a bit (or at least did in this game).
Okay, so how does OU beat this Baylor team?
OU on offense: I've seen some point to stats that they say prove time of possession isn't going to beat this Baylor team. I'm sorry, but whatever those stats are I'm not buying it. I don't see any other way, barring multiple turnovers from Baylor, that OU is winning this game other than by controlling the clock and keeping this Baylor offense off the field.
That's not to imply Blake Bell won't have to make some throws because he will, but there are ways in which he can have success. If he hits his receivers on target and in-stride, they will have opportunities to make yards after the catch which will be essential in this game. And if OU can get their running game going, Baylor will start to cheat up to try and defend it so OU can hit them with some of their own medicine with some play-action over the top.
As we mentioned above, OU needs to use Baylor's aggressiveness against them and work in some option in the run game until the Bears prove they can stop it.
OU on defense: Pray.
Seriously though in no other game they've played so far this year will maintaining your discipline be more important. Because of their speed all over the field, it literally takes only one misstep from an OU defender to create opportunity for Baylor. While you could say this Baylor offense has yet to face a defense with the kind of athletes OU will roll out there and it'd be true, the same applies for that OU defense in what they'll be facing from Bryce Petty & company.
If Oklahoma cannot limit Baylor's success on the ground, they have virtually zero chance of winning this game. As we mentioned at the very beginning, this is not an overly pass happy Baylor offense. They are more than content to beat you on the ground if that's what is working. And any success they have running the ball only makes their play-action passing attack all the more deadly. The play of Jordan Wade, Torrea Peterson, Frank Shannon, and Dominique Alexander will be critical to limiting Baylor on the ground.
I'll be stunned if Baylor doesn't try and manage situations that require Alexander to play coverage and that scenario scares the you know what out of me. From what I've seen Baylor's passing game is much more vertical than horizontal, but I'd expect a lot of short crossing routes with a similar deeper route just behind it. The reason for that being, the shorter route requires an OU linebacker or nickel back to make a decision to jump that route or (key phrase) stay disciplined and maintain their depth to defend the deeper route. They haven't shown a ton of success thus far in making those decisions, so Baylor would be wise to try and exploit it.
To that very point, those type of routes take time to develop which means pressure on the quarterback can blow them up. So while the Lynn/Hayes combo may be the most important on the field as I stated earlier, Eric Striker and Charles Tapper aren't far behind. Stating the obvious, Oklahoma has to get pressure on Petty in this game. They don't even necessarily have to get sacks, though that would be ideal, they just have to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. If he has extended periods of time to throw, Baylor has way too many weapons for OU to defend and things would likely get really ugly.