By Shehan Jeyarajah
If there is a word that has been thrown around with Baylor football, it’s history. The Bears are ranked top five in the Associated Press poll for the second time in history and the first time since 1953. The Bears are ranked No. 6 in the BCS standings, the highest the program has been in the 16-year history of the BCS. Baylor is the highest ranked team in the Big 12. The Bears are 4-0 in conference play for the first time in Big 12 history.
With the wind of that success behind its back, Baylor (7-0, 4-0) looks forward to challenging traditional Big 12 power No. 10 Oklahoma (7-1, 3-1) today at Floyd Casey Stadium.
For the first time in the history of the matchup, Baylor is favored to win.
Baylor is the best offense in the NCAA and one of the best of all time at this point in the season. The Bears average 718.4 yards of offense per game. To put that into perspective, the FBS record for total offense per game is 624.9 yards per game by Houston in 1989. The record for total offense in a season is 7,978 total yards by Tulsa in 2008 in 14 games, but Baylor is on track to shatter those numbers in 13 games.
Junior quarterback Bryce Petty has been the leader on offense this season. Petty ranks fourth in the country in passing yards per game with 350.4 yards per game. The other four of the top five passers average 48.4, 52.4, 54.5 and 53.6 passing attempts per game. Petty averages 25.1 passing attempts per game.
Petty has thrown 18 touchdowns this season to one interception. Only Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has thrown more touchdowns and fewer interceptions.
Petty leads the country in yards per passing attempt with 13.9 yards per attempt. Florida State’s Jameis Winston is second with more than two yards per attempt. Petty is on track to destroy the all-time passer rating record for a season of 191.8 by Russell Wilson at Wisconsin. The Bears’ quarterback currently has a passer rating of 219.0.
Junior running back Lache Seastrunk has performed as well as any running back in the country. Seastrunk is No. 10 in the country in rushing yards with 124.1 yards per game despite being one of only two running backs in the top 10 to average fewer than 19 carries per game. Seastrunk averages 13.7 carries per game.
When Seastrunk has touched the ball, he has been explosive. He leads all running backs in yards per rushing attempt with 9.1 yards per attempt. Seastrunk is also tied for 13th in the country with 11 touchdowns, despite having played less games than all but one of the players ahead of him.
Baylor has the most dynamic receiving combination in college football with junior wide receiver Antwan Goodley and senior Tevin Reese. The two are ranked third and seventh in the country respectively in receiving yards, the only teammates in the top 10.
Reese and Goodley are both on track to finish with 1,000 receiving yards each after only nine games. The two receivers are also on pace to finish with a combined 3,191 total receiving yards.
With all the talk of the dynamic offense, Baylor’s stingy defense has been an afterthought. The Bears have quietly risen all the way to 11th in the country in total defense. The Bears allow merely 316.0 yards per game. That ranks Baylor second in the conference behind Oklahoma. The defense is sixth in the nation in scoring defense.
With Oklahoma, all talk starts on the defensive side of the ball. The Sooners rank No. 10 in the nation in total defense. The Sooners allow 314.3 yards per game through eight games. The Sooners also rank No. 10 in the nation in passing defense, holding opponents to 179.5 yards per game through the air.
On offense, Oklahoma has major questions at the quarterback position with junior Blake Bell starting his sixth game of the season. The Sooners have the 93rd passing offense in the country. Oklahoma averages 201.0 passing yards per game.
The running game is where Oklahoma has found success on the offensive side of the ball. The Sooners rank 17th in the country in rushing offense with 234.0 yards rushing per game.
Senior running backs Brennan Clay and Damien Williams have combined for 187 carries, 950 yards and eight touchdowns. Bell has also added 245 yards on the ground for the Sooners.
Similar to Kansas State, Oklahoma is the type of team that has a chance to play clock-management on the offensive side of the ball with its running game.
Baylor struggled against Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams’ option offense, and Bell has the ability to run a similar system.
Despite ball-control tactics, the Oklahoma offense likely does not have the horses to compete with Baylor. It will be up to the Oklahoma defense to keep the Sooners in the game, which will be difficult to do.
Oklahoma has not applied consistent pressure in the backfield, ranking in the bottom 30 in tackles for loss per game. Against a talented and sturdy Baylor offensive line, the Sooners may run into issues.
Baylor has been disruptive defensively at the line of scrimmage. The Bears rank third in the country in tackles for loss per game with 9.1 per game. Sophomore defensive end Shawn Oakman is fourth in the nation with 1.7 per game.
The Oklahoma offensive line ranks 74 in preventing tackles for loss. When Bell gets into trouble, he has a tendency to make mistakes.
At home, Baylor has been a juggernaut. This game is also the most hyped game in the history of Baylor University.
The Bears will be bringing in the first true sellout in years, along with a BlackOUt promotion.
With a dynamic home crowd behind them, Baylor football will attempt to make a momentous statement on a national stage.
In a game that features the Big 12’s best offense against the Big 12’s best defense, the Bears and Sooners will square off at 6:30 p.m. today at Floyd Casey Stadium.
The game will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1.