It is no secret. Baylor is the juggernaut of the Big 12 this season. Yes you are reading that right. Baylor. What makes this team such a tough match-up? Their offense. Baylor has had Art Briles at the helm since 2008 and the offense has been progressing further and further every year Briles has been there. This is similar to his rise at Houston when he took players like Kevin Kolb and a young Case Keenum and made them NFL quarterbacks. It did help in the first years at Baylor that Briles had a quarterback like "Bob Griffin Thrice" to lead up the offense, but now it has gotten to the point that the Bears can bring in an average college prospect like Bryce Petty and make him one of the most prolific players in the country.
Of the 16 offensive stat categories during the conference season, Baylor has a player leading nine of those 16. Bryce Petty of course is the leader in three of those categories himself. He is a tough customer for defenses in the league, being able to make all of the throws and being able to place the ball where he needs to. He may still be a product of the Briles system, but there is always one way to stop any prolific passer, getting in his face. Sacks have not been a huge component this season but rushing the passer will open up opportunities for an opportunistic Cowboy defense to make plays on potential rare mistakes made by Petty. The Cowboys are the best bet to force those mistakes as they have led conference play with 15 interceptions.
Who would have thought that the leading rusher of the conference season would have been third on his team's depth chart at the start of the year? You could say it is "Shocking?" Well lame puns aside, Shock Linwood has been electric in the absence of once Heisman-hopeful Lache Seastrunk. Averaging almost eight yards per carry (7.8), and 124 yards a game, it is easy to see how Baylor has had success on offense. They have enough balance to run the ball and then be able to do what they do best, pass the ball. So stopping the run of Linwood, Glasco and maybe Seastrunk will be even more imperative if the Cowboys want to slow the Baylor passing game at all.
This is the best rush defense that Baylor has faced since their 35-25 win over Kansas State five weeks ago. That happens to be the smallest margin of victory the Bears have had this season, and at that point in the season, the Kansas State offense hadn't found their stride like they have in the last few weeks. What I am saying is that, this is the best offense and rush defense combo that Baylor has faced this season.
There is one weak spot in the OSU defense that the Baylor can exploit potentially at will, and that is throwing over the middle of the field with their speedy inside receiver Levi Norwood. It is similar to what the Cowboys faced when they played Texas Tech and Jace Amaro but obviously Norwood and Amaro are two totally different receivers. Caleb Lavey has had a great year being one of the best coverage middle linebackers in the nation, but the differential in speed between Lavey and Norwood (Baylor's punt returner) could prove detrimental to the Cowboys home effort Saturday.
Fans are in for a real treat this weekend in Stillwater. It's just like a Thanksgiving dinner with all the "fixins." College Gameday, a 7 p.m. national television kickoff, and the deciding game in the wild season that has been the Big 12 conference season will set the table along with the closest match-up of Big 12 power teams this season. To the victors goes the conference.