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Oklahoma Football at Baylor: Game preview, storylines & predictions

Saturday night could make or break CFB Playoff chances for both teams involved.

Baylor v TCU Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The last time the Oklahoma Sooners traveled to Waco, Baylor was in the middle of a 1-11 season, and I had to write this very sad preview.

What a difference two years makes.

College Gameday will be on hand to watch the top two teams in the Big 12 battle for the top spot in the conference and keep their CFB Playoff hopes alive.

No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners (8-1) at No. 13 Baylor Bears (9-0) (Waco, Texas — McLane Stadium)

Time & TV: Saturday, Nov. 16, 6:30 p.m. CT, ABC

Commentators: Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Maria Taylor

Stream: WatchESPN

Radio: The Sooners Sports Radio Network with Toby Rowland can be found on KRXO 107.7 FM ‘The Franchise’ in OKC. For Tulsa listeners, listen to KMOD FM 97.5 or KTBZ AM 1430. Check out OU Football on TuneIn Radio for online access.

Line: Oklahoma -10.5 (as of Friday at 3 p.m. CT)

O/U: 67.5

Allen Kenney on Baylor’s improved defense

Sooners drop to No. 10 in Week 12 CFB rankings

OKLAHOMA BREAKDOWN PODCAST: Reacting to the narrow win and looking ahead to Baylor

BLATANT HOMERISM PODCAST: Picks Trying Not To Suck (Week 12)

Any Sooner fans making the trip to Waco who want to attend College GameDay should be prepared for an early morning.

Storylines

CFB Playoff Implications

This is, for all intents and purposes, an elimination game for the CFB Playoff. Both teams need to win out (and look good doing so) if they want to have any shot of making the top 4. That could ultimately mean that one of these teams has to beat the other twice in the next month.

Baylor is No. 13 in the latest committee rankings despite it’s 9-0 record. The major critique against the Bears has been their lack of a key win. A win Saturday would legitimize Baylor in the same way Minnesota’s win over Penn State last week legitimized the Gophers in the eyes of many.

Likewise, Oklahoma needs to win and look good in the process following back-to-back lackluster performances against K-State and Iowa State. They need to show the committee that the last two weeks were outliers and look like the OU team we saw the first two months of the season.

Strength on strength: OU offense vs. Baylor defense

Saturday night’s matchup will feature the Big 12’s best offense going up against it’s best defense. If you haven’t watched Baylor much during the Matt Rhule era, this team could not possibly look more different from the Art Briles-era Bears. The Baylor team controls the clock on offense and limits big plays on defense better than anyone else in the conference.

One of Baylor’s greatest strengths on defense has been the ability to shut down the other team’s top receiver. Last week the Bears held TCU’s Jalen Raegor to just 1 catch for 8 yards. Earlier in the season they held Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace to just 69 yards. Baylor will try to do the same to CeeDee Lamb. This means Jalen Hurts may be forced to rely on the likes of Charleston Rambo and others if Baylor devotes several defenders to shutting down Lamb.

Dictating the offensive strategy

The best way to slow down the Sooner offense (which isn’t as fast-paced as its been in years past) is to keep them off the field. Crazy, right? That will obviously be Baylor’s goal for Saturday night. Baylor runs the ball more than just about anyone else in the conference and has no problem methodically putting together the type of long, clock-burning drives that would bring a tear to Bill Snyder’s eye.

Oklahoma’s best chance of success will be jumping out to an early lead and forcing Baylor to adjust its offense accordingly. Charlie Brewer is accurate but doesn’t take a lot of deep shots downfield. If OU can’t score early and instead lets Baylor run the crockpot offense all game, it could be a long night for Alex Grinch’s defense.

Prediction

This is far and away the biggest game of Matt Rhule’s tenure in Waco to date. It’s hard to express how much a win like this would mean to a program that was decimated by scandal just four years ago and has fought all the way back. Both teams have lacked consistency the last few weeks, so just about all outcomes are on the table.

In the end, I think OU’s talent advantage wins out and the Sooners survive a close one in Waco and put Baylor’s dreams of a perfect season on ice.

Oklahoma 34, Baylor 30