It was a bit of déjá vu in Lubbock, Texas, the last time Oklahoma State stepped onto the field, bringing back memories of the 2018 season when the Cowboys would follow up good outings against ranked opponents by falling flat on their faces against more mediocre opponents.
That could prove beneficial for OSU, because Baylor walks in as a top 20-ranked team. If that trend continues, the 5 Bold Predictions will be just as roughed up as the Cowboys’ overall record, which went 50% in the Tech game.
Baylor will have 4 sacks
OSU will get an opportunity to find out just how good – or bad – its offensive line really is with one of the best defensive fronts in the country coming into Boone Pickens Stadium. Baylor leads the conference with 23 sacks – averaging 3.83 sacks per game – and rank seventh in the country with that mark.
Making it more impressive is the defensive scheme, working mostly with a three-man line – with a three-man linebacker corps to back them up. The bulk of the sacks are coming from the interior lineman with defensive tackle James Lynch, whose 8.5 sacks is tied for second in the country – just a half a sack off the nation’s sack leader. On the flip side, OSU has allowed 13 sacks on the season – which only Texas has given up more among Big 12 teams – and the past two games have utilized a makeshift offensive line due to injuries.
There is a chance redshirt junior left tackle Dylan Galloway could return against Baylor – which would allow the line to be back to its original starting front five – but the fact coach Mike Gundy was still a little uncertain on Galloway’s availability at the start of this week means Galloway might not be at 100 percent, which could be a worry against this Baylor front.
Hubbard will be held under his season average
Despite being on the bye week, Chuba Hubbard still leads the country in rushing – by 230 yards – but his pace toward 2,000 yards might take a hit this weekend. Hubbard is averaging 182.3 rushing yards per game, which has him on pace for around 2,200 yards in the regular season, but this will be the best rushing defense he will have faced this season – though understandably, teams like Texas and Kansas State have their rushing defense affected by having faced Hubbard.
Baylor’s rushing defense has limited opponents to 113.5 yards per game, which ranks third in the Big 12 Conference. The best rushing team the Bears have faced to date was Kansas State, which is averaging 217.8 rushing yards but was held to 123 yards in the BU game. Hubbard will likely eclipse the average Baylor has held teams to, especially with Baylor losing starting linebacker Clay Johnston – the team’s leading tackler – to injury for the season. Johnston was also second on the team with eight tackles for loss. But reaching close to 200 yards – needing 50 percent more of what Baylor has been giving up – could be a tall order for Hubbard.
Sanders will snap streak of 2 turnovers
OSU’s young quarterback Spencer Sanders has been a turnover machine the past four games, with his most recent outing being the worst of them all – five turnovers against Texas Tech. Sanders has turned the ball over at least two times the past four games and has turned it over nine times through three conference games.
But Baylor hasn’t been a team that has been all that opportunistic. The Bears have only forced five fumbles and five interceptions, averaging less than two takeaways a game. The open week for OSU would have allowed first-year offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson to work with his young quarterback on taking care of the ball. And considering even two weeks after his five-turnover game in Lubbock, people – media and fans alike – are still fixated on that number, it should have been a constant reminder for the Denton, Texas, native that he must be more careful with the ball to keep the best running back-wide receiver tandem in the country on the field.
Baylor will struggle in the red zone
Baylor might be undefeated, but its offense hasn’t made it easy in doing so. The Bears rank last in the Big 12 in red zone offense, scoring on just 85.2 of their trips into the 20 – converting 23 of 27, though 19 of those scores were touchdowns.
OSU’s defense – despite all the criticism it has gotten through the first half of the season – is ranked third in red zone defense among the conference at 81.8 percent, limiting opponents to score on 18 off 22 red zone trips. However, 78% of the scores by opponents were touchdowns, which ranks in the middle of the road for Big 12 defenses. As much focus there has been on OSU’s offensive woes in the red zone – though it has scored on 92.6 percent of trips inside the the 20 – this weekend’s conference game could be decided on how Baylor’s offense handles the red zone against OSU.
Matt Rhule will be a hot name in coaching searches
Heading into Waco, Texas, Matt Rhule – whose only head coaching experience was a four-year stint at Temple – it looked like he was taking on a fool’s errand trying to change the perception of Baylor football that was tarnished during the Art Briles tenure.
But after an abysmal 1-11 first season – grateful that Kansas was in the conference – Baylor has been trending upward. The Bears made a bowl game last season, which they won in a 45-38 shootout with Vanderbilt – adding to the Big 12 vs. Southeastern Conference storyline – and already has his team bowl eligible again this season – while a program like OSU still needs two more wins to get another bowl bid. When the inevitable coaching carousel begins in early December – or maybe earlier when coaches get the axe in the final weeks of the regular season – Rhule will draw a lot of interest from programs that are in need of some fixing themselves.
A program like Tennessee, which may be looking to already move on from Jeremy Pruitt who is already at nine losses in less than two seasons in Knoxville could try to pull Rhule away – after several failed attempts at going after Gundy.
Jason Elmquist is sports editor of the Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.