Oklahoma vs. Baylor: 10 Keys to Watch When Sooners Invade Waco
The Oklahoma Sooners begin a tough stretch of games against the always dangerous Robert Griffin III and his Baylor Bears.
The Sooners will be looking to get past this game, as they move towards a season-ending matchup with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, but it would be a mistake for them to overlook this Baylor team.
This is an interesting game for the Sooners on both sides of the ball. They're sure to be tested in Waco, but there are a few things to look for when you watch this game. What are they? Read on to find out.
10) Can OU Come out Fast and Silence the Home Crowd?
The Baylor Bears are averaging 50 points per game at home and have yet to lose this season while playing in Floyd Casey Stadium.
Plus, they're coming off an embarrassing performance against the lowly Kansas Jayhawks, and will be looking to prove their much better than they showed in that game.
All of that adds up to a difficult road test for the Sooners.
However, they can go a long way towards stifling the dangerous Bears and their crowd if they can jump out to an early lead. If the Sooners jump out quickly, they can silence the crowd and take the momentum away from Baylor.
Both of those could be key, because OU doesn't want to turn into a "who has the ball last" type of shootout.
They have the offense needed to compete in those types of games, but you never want to give the home team a chance, especially when that team has a player as capable of destroying a defense as Robert Griffin III.
9) Landry Jones
Landry Jones has to play well against the Bears. Considering the injuries to key Oklahoma players (more on that later), Jones might be the most important player on the field against Baylor.
He's been known to have troubles when under pressure, and you can rest assured that he will be feeling the heat from the raucous Baylor crowd.
As I said in the last slide, he can go a long way towards taking the crowd out of the game by coming out and dominating early on. If he can do that, he should have a much easier game in front of him.
It will interesting to see who he goes to with Ryan Broyles out with injury, but he should be able to play well against a sub-par Baylor defense.
8) Can OU Fix Their Red Zone Woes?
The Oklahoma Sooners have some well-documented red zone woes. They're currently converting just over 60 percent of their red zone attempts into touchdowns, and they're even worse on the road, converting 54 percent of those chances.
Overall, they are scoring points in the red zone, but they're just not able to get touchdowns. Currently, OU has just 29 touchdowns to 14 field goals in their 48 attempts.
To put that in perspective, LSU, who also has a similar 46 attempts, has 35 touchdowns to 10 field goals. That puts them at right around a 75 percent conversion rate, much higher than the prolific OU offense.
The Sooners need to find a way to fix their lacking red-zone offense. Luckily, they are going up against a weak Baylor defense, and that might be just what they need to turn their red-zone offense from a liability into a strength.
7) Kendall Wright
Kendall Wright has quietly put up a season that compares favorably to Big 12 studs, Justin Blackmon and Ryan Broyles.
Wright has 81 catches, 1,073 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games. He's been Robert Griffin III's most reliable target and looks like he will only get better moving forward.
However, he hasn't had a touchdown in his last three games. Yes, he's still putting up 100-yard games, but opposing team are keeping him out of the end zone and forcing RG3 to go elsewhere.
Wright really needs to help put points on the board this week if the Bears are hoping to win. He's the best receiver Baylor has and simply must produce to get RG3 some much-needed help against the tough OU defense.
6) Can Baylor's Defense Do Anything to Slow Down the Sooners?
As you could probably tell from the previous slides, the Baylor Bears don't have a very good defense.
They're giving up 36 points per game and don't force turnovers often enough to make up for it. It's doubtful that they can turn their defense around this late in the season, but they might have a chance to be effective against an offense that's lost two key players.
If the Bears hope to win, they have to get a few defensive stops. Their offense can dominate opposing teams, but you can't win against a team like OU without playing well on both sides of the ball.
5) Frank Alexander
Frank Alexander leads the Big 12 with 13.5 tackles for loss and is second with 7.5 sacks. He's well on his way to winning Defensive Conference Player of the Year with his dominant play for the Sooners' line.
However, he hasn't registered a sack in either of his last two games and is looking at a tough task in containing the elusive Robert Griffin III.
Alexander and his fellow end Ronnell Lewis might be the best defensive end duo in the nation. Look for them to pressure Griffin into making some hasty decisions, and possibly get a few sacks between them because of Baylor's less than stellar line.
Griffin has excellent athletic ability, but his line has given up 20 sacks. Considering OU has such great defensive ends in Alexander and Lewis, I wouldn't be surprising to see Griffin eating turf quite a few times in this contest.
4) Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III is the most electrifying player in the nation this season. He has the running ability of Michael Vick, but adds the accuracy of a Drew Brees. He's not going to edge out Andrew Luck for best quarterback in the nation, but he's still a great quarterback.
In the Big 12 it takes great quarterbacks to win, and that's exactly what RG3 is going to have to be when his team plays the Sooners.
The Bears have a decent run game in Terrance Ganaway, but they are nothing without Griffin's amazing talents.
Look for Griffin to have a solid game, regardless of whether his team gets the "W." If he can have a great game instead of just a solid one, then Baylor might see themselves pulling off the upset.
3) Will Tony Jefferson Play Enough to Be Effective Against RG3?
The last time the Oklahoma Sooners took the field, many were wondering why star defensive back Tony Jefferson was seen on the sidelines more than on the field. After all, he'd been putting up some great performances, so it was unlikely that he was in Bob Stoops' doghouse.
Well, it was announced earlier this week, that his time on the sideline was due to an MCL sprain. It's not likely to end his season, but it did force the coaches to rest him against Texas A&M.
With the help of a bye week, it's possible that Jefferson could be inserted back into the lineup on a more regular basis against the Bears. If that happens, it's worth watching to see if he can be effective against Baylor's star quarterback.
Look for the coaches to up his playing time, but, unless the Sooners are losing, I don't expect him to play the entire game. The Sooners will need him to be completely healthy for the season-ending matchup against the Oklahoma State Cowboys and could look to rest him a little bit this weekend in preparation for that.
2) How Will OU Cope with Injuries?
Ryan Broyles. Dominique Whaley. Tony Jefferson. Tom Wort.
Those are just some of the players listed on the Sooners' injury report. Oklahoma has been hit hard by the injury bug, and it's going to be interesting to see how they deal with the loss of key players.
Roy Finch has proven himself to be a solid back behind Whaley, and he could become more of a focal point now that Broyles is out for the season. OU hasn't been much of running team this season, but that could change if Finch proves himself to be the answer at the position.
Jefferson is likely to make a comeback this week, as I said in the last slide, but it's still worth noting that he'll do so with a sprained MCL.
Wort sprained his ankle against Texas A&M and didn't practice at all during the bye week. However, it's likely that the coaches are just resting him and he will see himself on the field against Baylor.
He probably won't play every down because the coaches are going to be looking to get everyone healthy before the OK State game, but he should play more than half the snaps.
The Sooners really need to figure out what they're going to do on offense without two key players before the season-ending contest with the Cowboys. Look for the offense to be somewhat conservative this week, as Bob Stoops figures out what he's going to do, and then open up more moving forward.
1) Jaz Reynolds
You may have noticed that I didn't mention Ryan Broyles replacement in the last slide. That's because I wanted to give Jaz Reynolds an entire slide to himself.
Kenny Stills might be the Sooner's second receiver in the statistics column, but it's the ultra-talented Reynolds that's going to step up and become Landry Jones' favorite target now that Broyles is gone.
Reynolds has a huge body, and can really stretch the field with his speed and ability to catch the deep ball. Plus, he has some of the biggest hands I've ever seen, making difficult one-handed catches looking routine.
Reynolds has really come on strong these last few games after sitting out the first two of the season. I fully expect him to continue to play well against the weak Baylor secondary. Look for him to find the end zone multiple times and lead the Sooners to a victory.