A year ago, the Oklahoma Sooners and Baylor Bears played two hotly-contested games that ultimately led to OU’s fifth consecutive Big 12 crown. This season’s matchup between the two squads doesn’t carry the same weight – oddsmakers favor the Sooners by more than three touchdowns.
But the last two weeks have been all manner of 2020 around the OU program. After Covid-19 issues spiked last week’s game against West Virginia, the Sooners are apparently working with a patchwork roster and coaching staff. Is that setting OU up for an upset?
Here’s a quick look at what the Bears are doing this year on offense to get a better idea of what is in store for the Sooners on Saturday.
*The fact that veteran quarterback Charlie Brewer has played in all seven of Baylor’s games may go down as one of the biggest surprises in college football this year. Brewer has been knocked around his entire career, but he has thrown all but two of Baylor’s passes this season.
However, there’s little evidence to indicate coordinator Larry Fedora is building Baylor’s offensive plan of attack around keeping his QB healthy. Baylor remains one of the worst teams in the country at allowing sacks, giving up 3.4 per game. Moreover, Brewer is running the ball 12.7 times per outing this season, up from 10.5 in 2019.
*Fedora is a longtime Air Raid practitioner, and the Bears have married a number of the scheme’s staples with with popular wrinkles in spread offenses today. The Bears base primarily out of 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end). Fedora has a thing for empty sets, however, that either line up the RB out wide or motion him out of the backfield prior to the snap.
The Bears generally go no-huddle, although their spotty efficiency doesn’t always translate into a high volume of plays. Baylor snaps the ball about 69 times a game, or roughly five times less than OU, and the Sooners aren’t exactly speed demons this year.
*The Baylor passing game features Air Raid favorites like shallow crosses and option routes for slot receivers. The Bears like to work horizontally through the air and also favor the quick game over Brewer holding the ball for deep routes by receivers. To wit, BU is gaining 6.8 yards per pass in ‘20, down from eight last year.
When BU does go downfield, R.J. Sneed is a popular target on sideline fade routes and back-shoulder throws. Also, keep an eye out for senior RB Trestan Ebner catching the ball out of the backfield. Ebner is second on the team to Sneed in receiving yardage this year.
*On the topic of Ebner, this running game shouldn’t scare anyone. Baylor has made it into triple digits in rushing yardage just two times in ‘20 – the victims in those cases were Texas Tech and Kansas.
*Overall, keys for the Sooners on defense include keeping up with inside receivers such as Gavin Holmes and Josh “On” Fleeks in space. Fedora will almost try to space out OU with empty sets to establish advantageous one-on-one matchups.
Additionally, rumors abound that OU will be down a few bodies in the secondary, so count on the Bears to try to pick on some of the backups who get called into service.