5 Things to Watch in Baylor Bears vs. Oklahoma Sooners, Plus a Prediction

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5 Things to Watch in Baylor Bears vs. Oklahoma Sooners, Plus a Prediction

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The undercard fight on Thursday night’s college football heavyweight card features No. 6 Baylor and No. 10 Oklahoma. The Bears have won eight straight at home, and nine straight home wins would be a record at Floyd Casey Stadium, where two top-10 teams have not played since 1956.

Baylor looks to earn some national respect and hopes to keep its undefeated record and national title hopes alive. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is trying to prove that it’s still the big fish in the Big 12 pond, and a win for the Sooners would keep their Big 12 title hopes alive.

One key stat to consider is this: 1. That is the number of times Baylor has beaten Oklahoma. The Bears have a 1-20 all-time record against the Sooners. The only win came two years ago in Waco, 45-38.

The Bears have a lot to prove tonight, both in the context of this season and historically. Many feel Baylor, despite its record, ranking and average margin of victory, is still an unknown commodity because of the low level of competition it’s faced so far. Beating the Sooners would silence most of their doubters.

On the same token, beating the Bears on the road would help Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops add a little more luster to his “Big Game Bob” nickname, which some feel has lost its legitimacy lately.

So which team will walk away from the proving grounds victorious? Which one will carry more questions with it after the game than before?

Here are five things to watch, followed by a prediction on who will win.

Scott Page is a college football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, Like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Can Baylor Play a Full Game of Football?

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Petty has attempted just four passes in the fourth quarter this season, and Lache Seastrunk has two rushing attempts. The average score of a Baylor game after three quarters is 55-10. In short, these guys have not been tested. But what happens when a tough, hard-nosed team locks them up physically and keeps the game interesting into the fourth quarter? Is Baylor tough enough to play a full game of football? They haven’t been knocked around much this season, but Oklahoma is a team that will hit you in the mouth with a tough running game and good defense. We’ll learn a lot about the Bears tonight based on how they handle themselves if the game is still in limbo late.

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4. Can Oklahoma Slow Baylor’s Rushing Attack?

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Three of the five teams that beat Baylor last year held the Bears to less than 120 rushing yards. Kansas State, the only team to play Baylor close this year, only gave up 114 rushing yards and held Seastrunk to 59 on 12 carries. The Oklahoma defense must find ways to make Petty’s job more difficult and get the Bears out of their run-pass rhythm. The best way to do so is stopping the run and making them one-dimensional. The Sooners rank third in the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed (134.75), but they’ve allowed 200 rushing yards or more to Kansas, Notre Dame and Texas. If that happens again tonight, Oklahoma’s chances of knocking off Baylor are slim at best.

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3. Can Baylor Force Blake Bell Into Mistakes?

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Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

This game features the two best pass defenses in the conference, but Baylor's job of defending Bell is decidedly easier than the Sooners’ task of slowing Petty. The Texas defense was able to force Bell into mental mistakes in the Sooners’ lone loss. His 4.3 adjusted QBR was the 13th worst QBR by any quarterback and the worst in the Big 12 this season. The junior never looked comfortable or confident and completed just 46.2 percent of his passes with two interceptions. If Baylor can get similar pressure on Bell, he could make some similar mistakes tonight. Of course, this all is predicated on stopping the Sooners’ rushing attack, which is as deep as any in the country with a stable of backs and Bell.

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2. Can Oklahoma Comeback if it Gets Behind Early?

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The Sooners’ offense is miles better when playing with a lead. Oklahoma can remain committed to the running game and use that to set up big plays on play-action passes. But OU’s passing attack is the most inconsistent part of this team, so if Baylor can get a few scores early and make the Sooners throw to get back into the game the Bears will have a great chance of winning. Not to mention Oklahoma will also have to shut Baylor’s offense down to come from behind.

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1. Which Team Will Win the Tempo Battle?

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears and Sooners could not be more different stylistically. Baylor wants to run a boatload of plays and have tons of possessions. On the other hand, Oklahoma prefers to slow the game down, control the clock, keep the Bears off the field and convert these time-consuming drives into touchdowns. The team that’s able to dictate the pace of the game will definitely have the best chance at coming out on top.

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Prediction: Baylor 41, Oklahoma 24

prediction
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With one of the greatest crowds in Floyd Casey Stadium watching, Baylor will prove itself against Oklahoma. The Bears will run the ball well enough to open up some things for Petty downfield, and the defense will sell out against the run and force Bell to make plays with his arm. The Sooners might keep up for a few quarters, but eventually the disparity in firepower will become evident.

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