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Sooners Ability To Stop The Run Will Determine Outcome

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Forget about Corey Coleman and Jarrett Stidham, the real key player the Sooners need to lock down to beat Baylor will be Shock Linwood. The running back for Baylor averages 7.81 yards per carry, which is second in the country for running backs with over 125 carries. I know Coleman may very well be the best player in football and Stidham is the new freshman quarterback, but stopping Baylor's run game will be the deciding factor in who wins this game.

Look at Baylor's losses over the past two seasons and you'll see why I say that.

Baylor's Losses the Past Two Seasons
Opponent Year Baylor Passing Yards Baylor Rushing Yards Result
# 10 OSU 2013 359 94 L 49-17
#15 UCF 2013 356 194 L 52-42
WVU 2014 223 95 L 41-27
#8 Mich. St 2015 603 -20 L 42-41

When the Bears can't run the football, their offense becomes that much easier to stop. Holding Baylor to 41, 42, and 27 points doesn't really sound like "stopping" their offense, but it's certainly better than their average points scored the past couple of seasons. But holding them to under 45 points is enough defense to beat Baylor, which is all that matters. After all it was defensive coordinator Mike Stoops who said that defense is measured by "wins and losses".

Of course it's not ideal for the Sooners to allow 600 passing yards either but the Sooners pass defense has been playing great in conference play. Stopping the run is what killed OU in their loss to Texas and if the Bears can get it going on the ground then it might be a blowout win for Baylor for the third straight season.

Since the Texas game, Oklahoma has allowed just 96.5 yards per game on the ground. Holding the Bears and Shock Linwood to under 150 yards should be considered ideal for the Sooners defense.

For Baylor, injured QB Seth Russell's ability to run was sometimes underrated. He had 400 yards on the ground this season before his injury and had six rushing touchdowns. Stidham isn't near the runner Russell was, but had a rushing touchdown in his first career start against Kansas State and has two on the season. If the Bears want to run the ball they will have to do it with Shock Linwood which makes Oklahoma's job a little easier than it would be if Russell were still playing.

Stopping Linwood is hard enough by itself, so the Sooners still have a lot of work on their hands. Senior DE Charles Tapper was relatively quiet the first seven games of the season, but has recorded five sacks in the last two games. He'll be a big part of stopping the run game along with DT Charles Walker. If they can get to Linwood before he gets past the line of scrimmage and bring him down then the Sooners will have a good chance of winning on Saturday. If they allow him to get a couple of yards before contact then it will be a long day for the Oklahoma defense.

Baylor's passing game is the reason why the Bears have been in the national spotlight the past couple of seasons. But if you want to beat the reigning conference champions then you have to stop their explosive run game. The Bears are going to get their big plays, but allowing them to run all over you is a sure way to lose the game. A balanced Baylor offense is a hard one to stop, so taking away their ability to run will be a huge factor in whether or not Oklahoma comes out of Waco with a victory.