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OU Football: Previewing The Sooners' Showdown With Baylor

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Oklahoma gets set for another early kickoff this Saturday when the Sooners host Baylor at 11 a.m. While OU is looking for its 14th straight conference win, Baylor is riding a two-game skid which has bumped the Bears out of the CFP Top 25 for the first time since the playoff committee began ranking teams in 2014.

Related: Mayfield Named Burlsworth Trophy Finalist

The Bears were rolling early in the season under interim head coach Jim Grobe, winning their first six games all against unranked opponents, but Baylor lost to Texas 35-34 two weeks ago then got blasted by TCU 62-22 last Saturday.

“[Baylor] still has all the same coaches that they’ve had a lot of the same players from the last couple of years where they’ve had so much success,” Stoops said. “Of course Coach Grobe in their now, again, a guy who’s got a great background, I’ve got a lot of respect for leading them now, so we know we’ve got to continue to hopefully keep improving and get some guys back, get a little stronger here this week.”

Here are a few things to know about Saturday’s matchup:

Baylor can put up points

Art Briles may not be around anymore, but his son Kendal Briles is still the offensive coordinator and has a lot of explosive playmakers at his disposal.  

Baylor ranks 6th nationally in total offense, averaging 541.8 yards per game to go with 39.8 points.

The Bears average 278.5 rushing yards per game, but had their lowest rushing output of the season (133)) in last week’s loss to TCU. It was a surprisingly low mark seeing Baylor totaled 398 rushing yards just one week before against the Longhorns.

While Baylor may start games slow, the Bears are known to turn it on in the second half. Baylor is outscoring opponents 124-81 in the third and fourth quarters which forces teams to be dialed in throughout the entire game.

Seth Russell likes to throw it downfield

The Sooners had the luxury of not facing Russell in last season’s matchup, but the senior will be back behind center for the Bears on Saturday.

Russell has thrown for 1,978 yards and 19 touchdowns this year and is 14-2 in 16 career starts. Not only is he Baylor’s career leader in passing efficiency (163.3), he’s not afraid to throw it downfield. Russell averages 16.10 yards per completion throughout his career and has a reliable veteran receiver in KD Cannon to throw it to.

Cannon, a junior, has a 33-game reception streak and has 40 catches this season for 560 yards and six scores. Ismael Zamora is the Bears’ second option through the air with 393 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Zamora had seven catches last week for 121 yards and a score in last week’s loss to TCU.

No Shock Linwood

Coach Grobe made a surprising announcement on Monday when he said star running back Shock Linwood would be suspended for the OU game because of “attitude issues.”

While Linwood is the Bears’ all-time leading rusher, he’s not leading the team in rushing this season mostly due to a hamstring issue that has slowed the senior down. Linwood has 594 yards on the season but only two touchdowns.

Sophomore running back Terrance Williams has ran for 691 yards on the ground to go with eight touchdowns and the OU defense should see a lot of him in the backfield without Linwood to take away carries.

Will OU’s offense continue to thrive?

The Sooners are averaging 557.9 yards per game while putting up a whopping 44.1 points. Led by the dynamic passing duo of quarterback Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook, OU has a 191.58 pass efficiency rating, good enough for third in the nation.

Westbrook has 12 touchdowns over his last six games to go with his 1,012 receiving yards. Defenses are struggling to keep up with the speedy receiver, and Mayfield has been taking full advantage of the situation.

Despite leading the Big 12 in total defense and only allowing 394.8 yards per game, the Bears haven’t played against some of the better offenses in the conference (OU, Texas Tech, WVU). Look for the Sooners to see a lot of success against the Bears, especially on the ground. With both Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon expected to be back for Oklahoma, it’s likely the Sooners will attempt to set the tone with a punishing running attack. 

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