The race toward the Big 12 Championship Game is beginning to take form. The next two weeks in particular will tell us a lot about which two teams will face a rematch in Arlington. One of the possibilities is taking place this weekend when No. 10 Oklahoma travels to No. 13 Baylor. The winner will take the top spot, either solely or by way of a tiebreaker, in the conference standings. Moreover, they’ll remain in the thick of the College Football Playoff race.
It’s a high stakes game that the Big 12 has become known for this time of year. With so much on the line, here’s what to watch for as the Sooners and Bears battle for supremacy.
Oklahoma: The Sooners’ defense has been the storyline for this team most of the year. What was an abysmal group a year ago was much-improved through the first seven games. Then Kansas State came along and Oklahoma’s defense has been pedestrian ever since. In its past two games — the loss to the Wildcats and the 42-41 win over Iowa State — Oklahoma has allowed season highs in total yards (426 and 477) and points. Depth has been a concern. Baylor is not the same quick-strike offense as Oklahoma, but the Bears do have a weapon in receiver Denzel Mims. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound wideout is a matchup problem for the Sooners’ defensive backs.
Baylor: This ain’t your Art Briles’ Baylor Bears. This is the Big 12’s best defense — and there are teams playing defense in the Big 12 this year, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The group has been anchored by a steady defensive line that gets in the backfield on its own. James Lynch leads the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and is having a first-team All-Big 12 season (if not All-America). Maybe Baylor can get into a shootout with the Sooners, but I much prefer its odds of pulling the upset if it’s a slightly lower-scoring game played on its terms. How this team attacks Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts will have a lot to say about that.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 16 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: McLane Stadium — Waco, Texas
TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Game prediction, picks
Few teams have played on the edge like Baylor. This team has won five games by one possession or less. It feels as though its ranking is a reflection of “not losing” more than “winning,” if that makes sense. There’s no question Baylor is worthy of being undefeated, I’m just wondering when the close calls are going to swing the other way. I like Oklahoma straight up, and as usual with the Sooners, one play can mean the difference between taking or laying the points. Pick: Oklahoma (-9.5)
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