After a wild non-conference slate, the Oklahoma State Cowboys (2–1)begin Big 12 Conference play this Saturday, in Waco (6:30p, FOX). The Baylor Bears (3–0)come in ranked 15th in the most recent coaches poll, continuing their offensive dominance, despite a hurried coaching change.
Head Coach Jim Grobe now leads the way for the Bears, after the University relieved Art Briles of duty last summer. After three games, Baylor has continued to have a high-scoring offense (44.3 points/game), while averaging 557 yards/game, good for 8th in the nation. Although Senior, Seth Russell leads the way at QB, it is the three-headed rushing attack that is making noise for the Bears. Shock Linwood (school’s all-time leading rusher), Terence Williams and JaMycal Hasty all average over 71 yards/game on the ground, while the team averages 282 yards/game.
Oklahoma State enters the game fresh off a 45–38 thriller over Pitt. QB Mason Rudolph threw for a school record 540 yards, while receiver James Washington finished the day with 296 yards receiving. After the offensive outburst, the Cowboys come in to this week’s game with the 9th best passing attack. Even though the team showed signs of life in the running game against Pitt, this is still a one-dimensional offense that relies on it’s receivers to make big plays.
For all the talk about Baylor’s offense, it is the defense that has set the tone in the early part of 2016. Admittedly, the competition has been less that stellar, but the 3–4 alignment has produced the 7th best defense in the nation. The Bears are first in passing efficiency defense (58.6) giving up only 97.0 yards/game through the air.
The Cowboys defense has shown the ability to produce turnovers in key situations, including a game-sealing interception last week. The defensive front has also shown it’s quality averaging 10 tackles for a loss/game. The defense allowed 290 yards on the ground against Pitt, however, and watching the matchup with the Baylor rushing attack will be something to keep an eye on.
Players to Watch — Baylor
The fifth year senior is 11–0 as the Baylor starting quarterback. After his 2015 season was cut short due to injury, Russell has returned in full force through the first three games. He has thrown for 761 yards and 9 touchdowns, with only three interceptions.
Cannon comes fresh off a 213 yard receiving performance (5th highest is school history), and leads the team with 352 yards this season. His athleticism allows him to get separation from defenders, which could pay dividends against a Cowboy secondary that has shown the tendency to give up big plays.
The redshirt freshman running back was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after his 105 yard performance against Rice. The speedy back is averaging 8.5 yards per carry and leads the team in rushing. Baylor uses three different back effectively, and a fresh-legged Hasty could be pivotal if the game is close in the fourth quarter.
Players to Watch — Oklahoma State
Lost in James Washington’s amazing game against Pitt was Jhajuan Seales’ 129 yard effort on the other side of the field. It was also Seales who made the reception that set up the go-ahead score for the Cowboys. As Washington receives some special attention on the deep routes, Oklahoma State may need Seales to have another big day.
The senior, Childs, ran for four touchdowns against Pitt, and became the first 100 yard rusher of the season for the Cowboys. With a maligned offensive line and rushing attack, Childs has proven himself to get a significant amount of carries. The Cowboys need Childs to move the ball forward, when given opportunities, especially in the Red Zone.
The redshirt sophomore had a breakout performance against Pitt. He finished with four tackles for loss, with two sacks and a QB hurry. Against a team like Baylor, getting pressure on the quarterback is vital to disrupting the offense. If the Cowboys are to get off the field on third down situations, the defensive line and Walterscheid must get in the backfield.
Game Changer — Time of Possession
Both teams have traditionally been quick-strike offenses, and this year is no exception. The ability for each team to control the clock at key moments might be vital to the outcome of the game. With Baylor’s powerful running attack, if given the lead, they might be able to sustain long drives that can keep their defense rested.