Thursday night's game against Oklahoma is Baylor's most-anticipated game in program history. We know this because the infamous tarp has been lifted from the south end of Floyd Casey Stadium, for crying out loud.
That doesn't just happen, folks.
But beyond any sort of symbolism that removing the tarp may provide, Thursday will be a Top 10 matchup with major Big 12 title and BCS implications. And Baylor has never played for either.
2013 looks as good as any year to change that. The Bears have one of the best offenses in all of college football with an unfair number of skill players and pro prospects. The defense, statistically speaking, hasn't been too far behind.
But, other than a 35-25 road win over Kansas State, Baylor hasn't been tested. That shouldn't be the case Thursday, though Art Briles' team is a 13-point favorite over Oklahoma per VegasInsiders.com.
In context, a "test" for Baylor should be considered any game that isn't over by halftime.
Tested or not, here's what Baylor needs to do to remain undefeated for another week.
Running back Glasco Martin is hungry, so keep feeding him
Lache Seastrunk gets the publicity, but bruiser Glasco Martin is every bit as important to Baylor's running game. He's averaged 15 carries a game over the past four games, including a 21-carry night against Iowa State.
The weakness in Oklahoma's defense is up front thanks to injuries to defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and linebacker Corey Nelson. Texas exploited that void with a ton of success in the Red River Shootout, rushing for 255 yards. UT running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown each went over 100 yards that day.
Seastrunk and Martin should both be able to run up the gut of OU's defensive line with success, but Martin could be extra important in crucial short-yardage situations.
Keep Oklahoma's running backs under 100 yards
Oklahoma has rushed for more than 200 yards in four of its five conference games. Not surprisingly, the one time the Sooners failed to reach the 200-yard milestone was a 36-20 loss to Texas. Expect OU to test the ground game early and often with Brennan Clay and Damien Williams after K-State racked up over 300 yards rushing against the Bears.
Baylor may need to sell out to stop the run, but that could open up receivers like Jalen Saunders, who finally had a big day for OU down the field against Texas Tech in Week 9. It's a risk that needs to be taken, though.
Then, tee off on Blake Bell and force him into at least two turnovers
Jumping out to big leads has allowed Baylor to be successful on defense this year. As Kansas head coach Charlie Weis previously noted on a Big 12 coaches teleconference, those big leads allow Baylor's pass-rushers to tee off on opposing quarterbacks, who are now forced to throw more often.
Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell made some questionable throws against Texas and Kansas, especially when under pressure. Bell is a big guy and can be hard to stop when he's running down the field, but he's not that elusive. Baylor is also excellent at picking up tackles for loss. Don't be surprised if Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett sends waves of pressure to try to knock Bell off early.
Baylor's offense is so good that turnovers translate into more opportunities to score.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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