Throw out all the hyperboles available in the dictionary; this clash between Big 12 rivals Oklahoma and Baylor is as big as a regular-season college football game can possibly get.
Baylor has plowed through a gamut of workable opponents to start the season 7-0. No FBS team has scored more points per game (63.9) or averaged more total offensive yards (718.4) than the Bears, but they have yet to take down a ranked opponent.
That's why Thursday's clash with No. 10 Oklahoma marks the biggest day of Baylor's season. A strong showing makes it awfully hard to overlook Baylor, but a loss validates all the critics who murmur about a lackluster strength of schedule.
That's not to say Oklahoma does not desperately need a win as well. At 7-1, the Sooners need another victory to stay competitive with Baylor in the Big 12. If the Sooners can beat the Bears after topping the Red Raiders, they just might steal Baylor's No. 6 ranking.
So what must each team do to get the job done at Waco? I'm glad you asked.
When: Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco, Texas
Watch: Fox Sports 1
Oklahoma's Blueprint to Winning: Control the Ground Game
The Sooners are fooling themselves if they expect to fully shut down the nation's top offense. That's OK though; they just have to contain them enough, just like they did Oct. 26 against Texas Tech.
Freshman quarterback David Webb entered the game with two straight 400-yard outings in his rear view mirror, so even the Big 12's premier defense could not fully shut him down. Webb still recorded 385 passing yards, but it wasn't enough to overcome a complacent rushing game and costly turnovers.
Despite Webb's effort through the air, he threw two interceptions that helped Oklahoma orchestrate an eight-point victory. More importantly, the Sooners tallied 277 rushing yards to the Red Raiders' 72.
Quarterback Bryce Petty will get his numbers, but locking down Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood will keep the score low enough for Oklahoma to etch out a victory.
Seastrunk has already registered 11 touchdowns along with 9.1 yards per carry, making him a deadly threat in Baylor's rushing attack. Oklahoma's stifling defense, however, can prevent the breakaway run and play more physical than any of Baylor's previous opponents.
In its only loss of the season, Oklahoma allowed two Texas backs to exceed 100 yards through the ground. That can't happen again for the Sooners to leave with a road victory.
Baylor's Blueprint to Winning: Expose Blake Bell
Most onlookers are wondering how Baylor's high-powered offense will fare against Oklahoma's vivacious defense. How about the other side of the ball?
Blake Bell has played well enough during his first year as the Sooners' starting signal-caller, completing 63.8 percent of his passes with 10 passing touchdowns and three interceptions. But the fullback-sized quarterback has looked shaky at times, so Baylor can unravel him in his biggest game yet.
Since his 413-yard, four-touchdown coming-out party against Tulsa, the junior has averaged 149.5 passing yards per game, including 133 yards and two interceptions during the loss to Texas.
If Bell and Co. are forced to trade touchdowns with Petty's bunch, Thursday night is going to be a heart-breaker for Oklahoma. Bell is much better suited to manage the game with short, efficient passes while relying on wideout Jalen Saunders to make the big plays.
By doing its thing on offense, Baylor will force Bell into opening up the offense to exchange barbs in a shootout. That atmosphere won't showcase Bell very well.
The Bears' defense is no slouch, allowing 15.9 points per game with more interceptions than opposing touchdown passes. In order to maintain its prestigious ranking, Baylor must prove that everyone is worrying about the wrong offense meeting its match.
Prediction: Baylor 35, Oklahoma 27
The Bears will prove they're the real thing on Thursday night. They're unproven against such a fierce adversary, but they're also too loaded on offense to bet against. A well-rounded performance will leave watchers wondering if Baylor deserves serious recognition as a BCS title contender.
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