SCATTERSHOOTING WONDERING IF THE SOONERS HAVE IMPROVED ENOUGH TO WIN AT BAYLOR
*Oklahoma has been roasted by an average of 32 points in losses to Baylor the past two seasons. Has Bob Stoops’ team improved enough to beat a team that looks good enough to me to qualify for the playoff?
*Stoops improved the quality and production of his staff – no doubt about it. The improvement in the secondary is remarkable. Budding star safety Steven Parker points to fundamentals, confidence and communication. They may get burned this weekend in Waco, but I expect Kerry Cooks’ DBs to be more sound the past couple of years and be in position to limit the killer explosive plays Art Briles has mastered.
LINCOLN LOGS VALUABLE TIME…
*Lincoln Riley has proven to be much less predictable than recent OU teams. With limited offensive line production, he’s found ways to buy time for Baker Mayfield, who has shown a rare propensity to be efficient short, long and with his legs, which weren’t built to win 100-meter sprints.
*Diron Reynolds has his down lineman out-performing their recruiting rankings – and isn’t that a true test of a good coach? Bob Stoops told me they’re comfortable with any of five players being on the field at any time. But as well as they’ve played both against the run and pass, Baylor is a different animal – or allow me to say, a different breed of cat. Baylor’s O-Line is impressive. Charles Walker seems to me to be the guy who has a chance to create occasional big plays that this game requires. Containing Shock Linwood in the run game and not letting the freshman phenom QB Jarrett Stidham hit them with killer QB keepers is a must. Hitting Stidham hard and as often as is legal is essential. He’s a studly-looking player. But he’s a freshman and hasn’t been in this environment. Getting him and thus the Bears on their heels would be a game-changer. Briles and Company play with a pedal-to-the-metal philosophy. Getting them out of their comfort zone would go a long way in pulling off the upset.
SPEAKING OF UPSET…
*I’m a little surprised Baylor opened as just a 3.5 point favorite. That means oddsmakers call it an even matchup if they painted lines and threw up goalposts on a neutral site field on I-35. Or, OU might even be a small favorite. But, as a man who follows the lines closely for evaluation purposes, the line means absolutely nothing in this game.
2 OTHER THOUGHTS BEFORE PUTTING ON MAKEUP
*One, keep an eye on how OU’s true freshman combo kicker Austin Seibert bounces back from his recent misses. After setting an OU record by making his first ten field goal attempts, Seibert has missed 3 of his last 5. I’ve talked with the kid several times and believe he’s got enough confidence in himself and ability to come through in the clutch. But entering a game where the margin is predicted to be a field goal, OU would prefer to go in with hotter right leg.
*Two, unlike last season, when Baylor’s Bryce Petty gave the Bears a decided QB advantage over an OU team that was getting inconsistent play out of Trevor Knight, the Sooners go in to this high-stakes game with a hot QB that is at minimum a push with Baylor. And as much as I respect the big-league arm and potential of Stidham, I’d give Baker Mayfield the edge, IF – and it’s a big IF – the Sooner offensive line can provide their QB what Baylor will probably get. And that’s enough of a run game to create the all-important element of balance. And a comfortable pocket from which to throw.
AND THAT’S WHERE I WIND UP IN ANALYZING THIS GAME
And that’s where I end up in analyzing this game. I’m concerned OU’s offensive line will have its hands full against a big, talented, albeit under-performing defensive front of Baylor. Lincoln Riley didn’t sound sure at all when I asked him after practice if LG Jonathon Alvarez looked good enough in his return to practice Monday to start. Even with Alvarez in the lineup, the Sooners go in with a center who is a big underdog to win his match-up with 6-2, 300 pound noseguard Andrew Billings, who will have had ten days to rehab his mild ankle sprain. And even though I expect OU’s two freshman tackles (Orlando Brown and Dru Samia) to become standout pillars with NFL careers, they’ll have to play lights out to execute the way standout OL Coach Bill Bedenbaugh needs to give Mayfield what he needs to operate. It’ll take all five Big Uglies having their finest 3 hours and 47 minutes of football to handle the Bears. But it’s certainly possible….and much more possible than the last two times these two teams go together.
AND FINALLY, PERK…..
Happy 31st birthday Perk! Kendrick can’t be having too much fun with an 0-6 Pelican start and being sidelined to injury. But truth is he’s making major league money and is living large, while not having to break a sweat!