By Collin Bryant | Sports Writer
Baylor football (0-3) hosts No. 3 Oklahoma (3-0) on Saturday in the Big 12 conference opener for both teams.
One of the Sooners’ biggest weapons and Baylor’s biggest challenges is senior quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has passed for 1,046 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions so far this season.
Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said he expects his team to rise to the challenge of playing a top ten team.
“I certainly would think you’d be excited to play Oklahoma. What a wonderful football team in every aspect,” Rhule said. “You have a chance to play against great players. You have a chance to play against probably a first-round draft pick at left tackle. You have a chance to play against great young receivers, an amazing tight end and a great quarterback, so you hope that great players and great teams bring out the best in your team.”
Last season against Baylor, Mayfield passed for 300 yards, with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown leading the Sooners to a 45-24 victory.
Mayfield isn’t the only playmaker for the Sooners. The Bears will also need to be prepared for freshman running back Trey Sermon, who has rushed for 135 yards and freshman wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who has 213 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
As the Bears prepare for Mayfield and the Sooner offensive attack, they will be getting some much-needed help in the secondary. Senior safety Taion returns from suspension and sophomore cornerback Grayland Arnold is returning from an injury.
Rhule said that as the team begins conference play, the return of several key players will be important.
“I’d say we think it is perfect timing with conference play beginning. As we said to our players, this nine-game stretch is really where we find out who we are and what we’re going to do. Defensively, we’re not good yet, but we’re getting better, and adding a guy like Grayland [Arnold] in really helps,” Rhule said. “What we’ve done is add in some depth after the unfortunate injuries and suspensions. Now, once you hit conference play, you feel like you have four, five or six corners that can go into the game.”
Junior running back Terrence Williams returns after sustaining a shoulder injury this past spring. Williams, who rushed for 1,048 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, said that even though he hasn’t been on the field, he has been getting “mental reps” and studying the playbook so that he will be ready to go.
Senior tight end Jordan Feuerbacher will be returning to the offensive mix as well.
In his weekly press conference, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said he believes the start of conference play is a new opportunity for everyone, so his guys will need to come ready to compete.
“This is a good football team, and right now it’s a clean slate for everybody,” Riley said. “You know the first game of Big 12 play, everybody’s got a lot of hope, everybody’s got a lot of excitement in regard to that, and we’re going to have to show up down there ready to play.”
This season, Baylor has begun doing the Oklahoma drill in its pregame warmups. The drill is designed to test players in confined full-contact situations and was designed by former Oklahoma head coach Bud Wilkinson.
Rhule said it’s something that he has always done with his past teams, but it is the player’s decision if they would like to participate.
“It’s something I’ve always done. We do it before Tuesday and Wednesday practices, and our team hasn’t really always embraced it. So I haven’t really wanted to do it,” Rhule said. “I’m not going to force them to do something. I think you’re seeing some older guys and some young guys stepping up and wanting to do it before practice, and so I said we’ll do it before the game.”
The Bears open conference play against the Sooners at 5:30 p.m Saturday at McLane Stadium. The game will air on FS1.