Sooners and Bears square off in top-25 battle

Top-25 foes meet up in Waco this weekend, as the ranked Oklahoma Sooners take on the 25th-ranked Baylor Bears in Big 12 action at Floyd Casey Stadium.

Bob Stoops' Sooners are 8-1 on the season, and sit one game back (in the loss column) in the Big 12 standings at 5-1. OU still has a shot at the Big 12 crown and is on a collision course with Oklahoma State. The two meet in the regular-season finale and with the Cowboys up by a game in the standings. If the Cowboys continue to win, Oklahoma will need to do the same to set up a showdown with Big 12 implications. Last week, the Sooners knocked off Texas A&M, 41-25.

Art Briles' Bears have been a bit inconsistent this season, looking like world beaters some weeks and then extremely beatable the next. Last weekend should be considered one of the beatable weeks, although Baylor did rally late to earn an improbable 31-30 overtime win at Kansas.

Oklahoma has dominated this series from the start and has won all 20 previous matchups with Baylor. The Sooners are the only Big 12 team that the Bears have not posted a win against.

The Sooners returned home last week and put up 41 points on the Aggies in a big win, but it came at a cost, as All-American wideout Ryan Broyles suffered a torn ACL and is lost for the year. The dynamic receiver is the NCAA's all- time leader in receptions and finishes his year with 83 receptions, for 1,157 yards and 10 TDs.

Overall, Oklahoma is averaging 45.4 ppg, on 545.9 yards of total offense. A big portion of that comes via the pass (380.9 ypg) and it will be up to quarterback Landry Jones to continue to produce despite the recent adversity. There is certainly evidence that he can do that very thing. Jones has completed 64.6 percent of his passes this year for 3,349 yards and 28 TDs.

Sophomore wideout Kenny Stills is just the kind of playmaker on the outside who can become the go-to-guy. Stills has 41 catches this year for 610 yards and eight TDs.

Briles recognizes that the loss of Broyles is significant, but that Oklahoma still has plenty left on offense.

"Ryan is arguably one of the best guys in America, maybe to have played in the last ten years stat wise. First of all, his injury, I hate it for him and I hate it for Oklahoma because of what he has done and the way he has been able to do it. I have seen his interviews and he seems like a really outstanding young man. They are not without. They have got good people, they have good schemes and they have a guy throwing the football that is doing it as well as anyone in America right now at this level."

The Oklahoma defense has been solid for the most part this season and has playmakers at each level. The team is yielding just 19.7 ppg this year, led by Butkus Award candidate Travis Lewis, who paces the team with 61 tackles. Ronnell Lewis (58 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks), Tony Jefferson (47 tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 3.0 sacks, for INTs) and Frank Alexander (40 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks) add to the depth in the front seven. Aaron Colvin (59 tackles) highlights the play in the secondary.

The Bears were looking at a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit, and came back (largest comeback in school history) to force overtime and then win the game in Lawrence. What it showed is that Baylor has a quick-strike offense. The numbers certainly support that, with Baylor averaging 40.3 ppg, on 567.9 yards of total offense.

It all starts with All-American candidate Robert Griffin III. One of the top playmakers in the country, Griffin has completed a ridiculous 74.2 percent of his passes for 3,093 yards, with 29 TDs against just five INTs. He also has 478 yards rushing and five more scores. When he is handing the ball off, Terrance Ganaway is usually the back of choice, averaging nearly 100 yards per game, with 10 TDs. When Griffin looks downfield, it is usually in the direction of wideout Kendall Wright (81 receptions, for 1,073 yards, nine TDs).

Stoops is aware of Baylor's arsenal on the offensive side of the ball.

"They are very explosive, of course with the athletes they have. It's just the type of offense they are running. Robert's (Griffin) efficiency throwing the football has continued to progress and it has been excellent this year."

While the Baylor offense has been one of the best in the country, the defense has struggled big time, allowing 36.0 ppg. The team has been particularly vulnerable to the run, yielding 219.9 ypg on 5.5 yards per carry. Another problem has been a lack of big plays, with just 14 takeaways and 14 sacks on the year. Safety Mike Holt leads the team in tackles (70) and INTs (3). Middle linebacker Elliot Coffey is a close second in stops (69) and INTs (2).