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Oklahoma Sooners Football: The Rise and Fall of Baylor Football (and OU’s Role)

Oklahoma has a chance to bring Baylor’s short-lived success full-circle

Baylor v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

On November 19, 2011, Baylor got the big win it needed to make itself a household name. At home in Floyd Casey Stadium, the Bears -- led by eventual Heisman winner Robert Griffin III -- defeated No. 5 Oklahoma 45-38 after a Griffin pass with eight seconds left to play put Baylor back in the lead for good.

This was not just "another game" for the Bears. Baylor to that point sported an 0-20 record against the Sooners. The team from Waco hadn't beaten a team ranked as highly as that OU squad since 1985. Baylor's 620 yards of offense where the most ever surrendered by Oklahoma, and that performance set the tone for the next several years as Baylor would showcase a high-flying offense that translated to Big 12 success.

Over the next three seasons, the Bears would win two out of three contests against Oklahoma (the wins coming by an average of 31.5 points per game). The rest of the country wouldn't do much better; after failing to reach eight wins in a season since 1991, the 2011 season began a run of five consecutive 8+ win seasons down in Waco that would also feature two Big 12 championships (one was a tie with TCU). The Bears also finished 2014 ranked in the top ten nationally for the first time since 1951.

Last year, it seemed Baylor might be destined for even greater heights as their November match-up against Oklahoma began with an 8-0 record and a No. 6 national ranking. Unfortunately for Baylor, that night Oklahoma took back a bit of the thunder Baylor claimed for itself back in 2011, handing the Bears their first loss in two seasons at new McLane Stadium.

The setback suffered at Oklahoma’s hands that night was small potatoes compared to what would come in the offseason for Baylor. The scandal surrounding the school and the football program had an impact across the country. Although the assistant coaches remained, Art Briles was fired. The change has had both a long-term impact on the team (two total commits for 2017) as well as an immediate one (Baylor has lost two games in-a-row leading up to this week, the last one coming by way of a 40 point loss to TCU).

Now, the Sooners have a chance to book-end Baylor’s brief stint of football glory as the Bears come in to Norman. With the aforementioned losing streak on its mind, Baylor has a decidedly different mentality than when it was seeking its first taste of greatness a few years ago. These Bears are trying to stay relevant. With the recent news that Shock Linwood — the school record-holder for career rushing yards and touchdowns — will be suspended against the Sooners for an attitude issue, it frankly seems like they’re not even trying very hard to do that. With the program in disarray moving forward and on a spiral this season, now would be the perfect time for Oklahoma to piece together a solid win on both sides of the football to end what it helped start.

To do that, OU needs to find its defense. Games against Kansas and Iowa State were nice to help mask some of the gaping flaws on the defense, but Baylor will bring with it a much better and much faster offense than either of those teams did. The Sooners will need to pressure the quarterback consistently and stop giving eight-yard cushions to receivers in a spread offense.

In any case, Oklahoma should be highly motivated on Saturday to show that a strange period of musical chairs in the Big 12 has come full-circle, and if they can put together a complete victory, Baylor once again may be without a chair when the music stops.