If this college football season was a video game, Baylor would be the Level 1 fodder that the Oklahoma State had to defeat on the way to a showdown with Texas. In the real world however, the Cowboys find themselves traveling to Waco having just knocked off one of the Big 12’s “bosses” (sorry ‘Horns, you’re not back) looking to avoid an emotional letdown. And with that, let’s get this preview started.
Where: McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas
When: Saturday, November 3, 2018, 11:00 A.M. CST
Stream: Fox Sports Go
Get to Know the Baylor Bears (4-4, 2-3):
Four wins feels like a lot for Matt Rhule’s Bears until you look at their schedule. Somehow Baylor has found themselves lucky enough to match up with the dregs of college football: two relative FBS newcomers (Abilene Christian University and UT San Antonio) and two teams from the football-averse state of Kansas (Kansas and Kansas State University).
When they’re not setting their games on the “Easy” difficulty level however, the Bears have struggled, losing to Duke 40-27, No. 6 Oklahoma 66-33, Texas 23-17, and West Virginia (58-14). BU is taking losses off the field as well, with the Big 12’s decision last Tuesday to fine the university $2 million for damaging the reputation of the conference with their abysmal handling and cover-up of the recent sexual assault scandal. Given the toxic culture that festered under previous coach Art Briles, it’s fair to argue that the fine was merciful.
In order to progress to the next level, bowl eligibility, Baylor must find some way to go .500 in their last four games:
11/3 Oklahoma State
11/10 Iowa State
11/24 Texas Tech
Even splitting those games will be a tough ask for the Bears, who will have to find ways to protect quarterback Charlie Brewer and find ways to unlock the talents of the versatile dual threat Jalen Hurd.
What to Watch For: Oklahoma State (5-3, 2-3):
After two straight losses to Iowa State and Kansas State, the Cowboys responded in a major way against Texas. Taylor Cornelius hung five touchdowns on the Longhorns, three in the air and two on the ground. Can he keep the momentum going? Cornelius found ample success last week connecting with wideout Tylan Wallas (10 catches, 222 yards, 2 touchdowns) beating the Texas blitz and secondary. If recent history is any indication, the Bears’ defense won’t offer much resistance, ranking 93rd nationally in FBS total defense, allowing 6.66 yards per play.
While OSU fans will hope Cornelius and Wallace continue their recent form, the usually reliable Justice Hill is in need of a restart. Although he averaged a respectable four yards per carry against Texas, (23 carries for 92 yards), Hill was kept out of the endzone while his quarterback found paydirt twice. This comes on the heels of the struggles against Kansas State (11 carries for 31 yards, 0 touchdowns) and Iowa State (24 carries for 66 yards, 1 touchdown). After setting a blistering pace at the beginning of the season, Hill needs to regain his mojo to balance out the newly-resurgent passing game.
Player to watch: Jalen Hurd:
Jalen Hurd can do it all. As a high schooler in Tennessee, he set the state record in rushing with 3,357 yards while also excelling in the 300 meter hurdles, the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash. After committing to the nearby University of Tennessee, Hurd found early success for the Vols as a freshman before a new transfer arrived his sophomore season: Alvin Kamara, now playing on Sundays for the New Orleans Saints and destroying your fantasy football team. After competing for carries his sophomore and junior seasons, Hurd opted for a change of scenery and announced his intention to transfer to Baylor.
Once he arrived in Waco, Hurd made it clear that he was changing more than just his team colors: he began lining up at wide receiver. When asked, Hurd admitted that he saw longer careers for professional wide receivers compared to the roughly 3 year average for NFL running backs. Although he’s primarily utilized as a wideout now, Baylor has found themselves a man who can do both: Hurd has 660 yards receiving this season with three touchdowns, while also rushing for 132 yards on just 27 carries with another 3 scores. Look for Baylor to deploy him all over the field in an attempt to find and exploit favorable matchups.
Hurd will be a handful for Jim Knowles’ defense, but the Cowboys’ offense is capable of putting up video game numbers once Hill, Wallace, and Cornelius all get on the same page. I think Oklahoma State figures it out and prevails 38-24.