STILLWATER – Oklahoma State has struggled playing Baylor in Waco under Mike Gundy.
The Cowboys are 2-4 all-time against Baylor in Waco under the current head man. They haven’t left victorious since 2009.
OSU (5-3 overall, 2-3 Big 12) takes on Baylor at 11 a.m. Saturday from the heart of Texas. Here are some keys to the game, what each team needs to do to win and a prediction.
Stopping Baylor on third down
The Bears boast one of the nation’s top offenses, and it seems to get more potent on third down.
Baylor is converting 46.7 percent of its third-down attempts, which is the 12th-best mark in the country.
Cowboy opponents are converting 38.7 percent of their third downs, which is a relatively high mark. It’s 63rd among FBS teams, so there is concern Saturday when the defense takes the field.
After a stellar all-around first half for the Cowboys against Texas, their production dropped off in the second half. It’s concerning considering Baylor’s offense is statistically better than Texas’, but it’s the first time since the Texas Tech game that OSU will face a predominately spread offense.
The secondary will be tested, but the defense needs to get off the field on third down.
Keep on keeping on
The second half, as mentioned, was concerning for OSU’s offense against Texas. After blistering the Longhorn defense in the first half to the tune of 31 points, a hero-like run from Taylor Cornelius on third down in the fourth quarter sealed OSU’s win.
Saturday’s game is more likely to be a shootout, but if OSU is aggressive for 60 minutes of offense, it has more scoring ability and playmakers.
Baylor (4-4, 2-3) recorded its best win this season in a 37-34 shootout against Kansas State on Oct. 6. The Bears also captured wins against UTSA, Abilene Christian and Kansas.
OSU has a better record and likely better football team, but the inability to start quickly and fall in a hole could create more problems than solutions on Saturday.
Creativeness on offense
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich had one of his most productive halves as OSU’s OC against Texas.
OSU used multiple new formations, including a heavy two tight end set, the I-formation and two back sets. OSU scored two touchdowns out of the I-formation. It was effective at running the ball with two tight ends on one side of the formation. With two running backs, OSU is giving its best playmakers more chances to touch the ball.
The creativity needs to continue Saturday. Although the Cowboys have one of the top offenses in the country, the brevity defenses have to read and recognize the different formations creates confusion and thus success for OSU.
The bravado play calling was some of the best OSU has displayed this season. Its offense is potent if it continues.
How OSU wins
The Cowboys on paper are better than Baylor, but that doesn’t matter when they enter McLane Stadium on Saturday.
They need to start quickly, similar to its win against Texas. But after gaining an early lead, it’s pivotal to continue being aggressive and not leaving any doubt as to the outcome of the game. A win secures another bowl appearance and garners more momentum with Bedlam on the horizon.
There’s plenty to play for, and an energized effort and effective game plan will show the Cowboys are a better team.
How Baylor wins
The Bears can exploit OSU’s defense if they sustain long drives and convert third downs. OSU is known to get conservative early when it has the lead, and Baylor’s offense has the ability to make a three-score lead vanish quickly.
Baylor has to test the OSU corners, who performed well against Texas but could have a drop in performance against a more pass-heavy offense. If OSU suffers a post-Texas hangover, Baylor could capitalize if it jumps out to an early lead and controls the clock from there.
The Cowboys are a better football team than Baylor. Both squads are fighting for bowl births. OSU is coming off an emotional high while Baylor was thrashed in Morgantown last week.
I see OSU coming out a bit lax and taking a quarter to find a rhythm offensively while its defense prevents the deficit from growing too much.
The Cowboys haven’t shown they can perform well after trailing in games, but Cornelius and OSU’s offense find a groove down the stretch and win for the first time in Waco since 2009.
My pick: OSU 44-31
DETAILS TO KNOW
What: Oklahoma State (5-3, 2-3) at Baylor (4-4, 1-4)
Where: McLane Stadium (Waco, Texas)
When: 11:00 a.m. CT Saturday
TV: FS1 (Aaron Goldsmith and Evan Moore)
Radio: 96.1 KXY, Cowboy Radio Network (Dave Hunziker, John Holcomb and Robert Allen)