Thanks to its 48-14 thrashing of Oklahoma, it’s time to put Baylor back in the national championship conversation.
Make no mistake about it: the Bears beat a very good Sooner team. Sure, OU has two losses, but both of those came against teams currently ranked in the top 10. More importantly, the Sooners could have easily earned a “W” in both of those contests if they had come up with just one timely play.
That wasn’t the case in this game. Despite falling behind 14-3 at the end of the first quarter, Baylor destroyed Oklahoma for the second straight season. The Bears were simply the better team on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, Baylor continues to prove why its offense is one of the most explosive in the country. Even the most cynical skeptic would have a hard time disputing that fact after what transpired during this contest. Regardless of what look Mike Stoops brought, Bryce Petty and company were ready for it. When OU blitzed, Petty got rid of it quickly. When the Sooners ran a zone blitz or rushed three defenders, Petty took his time and found the open receiver.
In other words: despite throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Bear offense, the Sooners couldn’t keep it from moving the sticks. In all, Baylor racked up 545 yards of total offense and punted only three times.
While the offense is what everyone will talk about, it’s the defense that makes this team a legitimate threat to win a national title. Yes, the unit struggled against TCU and West Virginia, but it still ranks 17th nationally in total defense (322.6), allowing just 21.9 points per game. Those numbers will both improve next week after holding the Sooners to just 320 yards and 14 points.
However, there’s more to the Baylor defense than just yardage and points: it’s about execution. The Bear defensive line – the best unit in the country in my opinion – dominated this contest in crucial situations. In the third quarter alone, the big uglies broke through the line twice to stop Oklahoma in the backfield on third and short.
These tackles for a loss changed the entire complexion of the contest. The first one forced the Sooners to go three-and-out, giving the ball back to Bryce Petty and company, who extended the lead to 38-14. Similarly, the second tackle for a loss forced Oklahoma throw on fourth and two, producing an errant throw and ending any hopes the Sooners had of making it a game.
It’s tough to argue with those results.
So, will the Bears make it to College Football Playoff if they win out?
It looks that way. Sure, Baylor didn’t do itself any favors by playing a soft non-conference schedule. However, if the Bears were to win out, they’d repeat as Big 12 champions by virtue of their wins over TCU and Kansas State.
With a conference championship in their pocket, it’s tough to see the Bears not qualifying for the College Football Playoff. Remember, the Selection Committee is supposed to consider conference championships won when making its decision. There’s no way that the committee can put a non-champion from the SEC field in front of it.
After all, the gridiron test – better known as the Sugar Bowl – proves that the Big 12 can play with anybody.