There is absolutely no way the Baylor Bears beat the Oklahoma Sooners Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).
It just isn’t fathomable.
Then again, all the statistics, pregame lines and opinions of fans and media alike will try to convince you otherwise.
Entering this pivotal Week 11 showdown, Baylor comes in with the unscathed record and a Top Five ranking in the polls. It’s the Bears who are favored to win by 14.5 points—the largest line against Oklahoma during Bob Stoops’ tenure in Norman. Art Briles has orchestrated an offense that leaves officials needing to ice their arms after signaling so many touchdowns.
What alternate universe is this in which Baylor fans can enjoy watching their squad score nearly as many points in an Oct. 5 victory over West Virginia (73) as the Sooners put up in a three-week span from Oct. 5-19 (74)?
Unfortunately, all good dreams eventually come to an end.
On Thursday night, Oklahoma will be doing the pinching.
This marks just the third time the Sooners have been underdogs against the Bears in the Big 12 era. The two previous times—in 1996 and 1998—Oklahoma came away victorious.
Furthermore, the last time the Sooners were a double-digit underdog in a Top 10 showdown, the team walked away with a 13-2 win over Florida State and the 2000 BCS title.
Not to mention, it’s hard to dub Baylor the favorites against a team it has beaten just once in 21 head-to-head meetings.
Silly Bears, have you forgotten? The Big 12 goes through Oklahoma.
Since 2000, the Sooners have captured eight of 13 conference titles. In that same span, no conference opponent boasts a winning record against them. Only Texas can say it has beaten Oklahoma five times.
In fact, the team is an impressive 21-7 against ranked Big 12 foes since 2006.
With that said, it’s foolish to consider any team a conference favorite, let alone a national title contender, until they have beaten the Sooners.
Ask the 2007 Missouri and 2008 Texas Tech squads how they feel about that.
But Baylor fans will tell you that this year’s squad is unlike any of those other teams. I mean, who could forget? The Bears lead the nation in both scoring (63.9 PPG) and total offense (717.3 YPG) for Pete’s sake!
Although the numbers are impressive, who exactly has the team played?
Up to this point, Baylor’s toughest opponent has arguably been Buffalo. Of the four Big 12 opponents the Bears have faced—West Virginia, Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas—those teams have a combined overall record of 11-22 and a conference mark of 4-17.
Oklahoma is easily Baylor’s toughest opponent to date.
Not only that, but the Sooners also recently disposed of another 7-0 conference foe, boasting a top-10 offense.
On Oct. 26, Oklahoma shut down Texas Tech’s high-powered offense, handing the team its first loss, 38-30. The Sooners outgained the Red Raiders 526-460, forced three turnovers and used a powerful rushing attack—249 yards—to win the time of possession (34:15).
It’s a formula you should expect the team to utilize against the Bears.
However, Oklahoma won’t be the first opponent to use such a strategy. In fact, the last time Baylor saw such a game plan, the team almost lost.
What will the result of Thursday night's contest be?
On Oct. 12 against lowly Kansas State, the Bears needed 14 fourth-quarter points to escape with a 35-25 win. The team only mustered 446 total yards of offense and turned the ball over once.
The Wildcats key was running the ball, totaling 327 yards and three touchdowns on 58 carries.
Kansas State recorded five drives of eight plays or more and recorded nearly 40 minutes of time of possession. That includes holding the ball for more than 12 minutes in the third quarter alone.
If the Wildcats could push Baylor to the brink of defeat, just imagine what the Sooners and their No. 17-ranked rushing attack (234.0 YPG) can do.
Needless to say, it’s going to be a long, frustrating night for Bears fans.
But hey, that’s just Baylor being Baylor.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.