After coming from behind against Texas Tech to lock up bowl eligibility our Bears return to Waco to take on the OSU Cowboys who have had our number recently and it will take a big effort on Saturday for Baylor to win.
OSU has a dramatically different QB situation this season compared to last season with Brandon Weeden. OSU has three guys who all have played a little this season and offer different strengths.
#10 Clint Chelf (6'1 205) is a Junior who has started the last couple of games for OSU. He has very good speed and was able to gash Oklahoma with several long running plays but doesn't have the strong arm Weeden had.
Their primary backup and goal line QB is #4 J.W. Walsh who is a 6'2 205 redshirt freshman who has started several games. He seems to have more of an arm than Chelf and seems to be a stronger runner. He has good speed and they use him near the goal line because of this.
The man who started the year at QB for them is #11 Wes Lunt who is a true freshman pocket passer and probably has the strongest arm of the bunch.
OSU has the Big 12's leading rusher this year with #1 Joseph Randle. The 6'1 200 Junior offers good speed, solid quickness, and can run through arm tackles. He made Texas look foolish on a 69 yard touchdown. His primary backup is #31 Jeremy Smith who at 5'10 208 is a strong runner who is tough to bring down. Their fullback is #9 Kye Staley (5'10 236) and he is used occasionally in the passing game and does
Their wide receiver corps isn't up to the standard of last year's dynamite group but is very good despite losing their top 3 wideouts. They will shuffle several guys in but typically they will have #17 Charlie Moore (6'2 202), #82 Isaiah Anderson (5'10 175), or #84 Austin Hays (6'2 170) rotating at the two outside spots.
At slot receiver their most dynamic threat appears to be #5 Josh Stewart (5'10 178) and he has the speed and agility to make big plays. He isn't Tavon Austin but he is very dangerous. When they use four receivers they will either put #85 Blake Webb (5'11 190) out there or #18 Blake Jackson (6'3 235) when they want a larger tight end type of player.
Their offensive line lost four starters from a year ago but returned a lot of experienced players and a very good offensive line coach. They aren't the dominant unit 2011 was but they are very good.
OSU runs a variation of the same scheme that we saw from West Virginia. It grew out of Mike Leach's Air Raid scheme but is dramatically different than that now. It is a pass first offense but doesn't feature nearly as many crossing routes as the original air raid.
It makes use of a lot of packaged run and pass concepts. The most well known example of this is the "stick draw" broken down at this link. It allows the offense to put more defenders in conflict and will be another wrinkle that we will have to contend with.
Also like WVU they will make use of the diamond formation around the goal line to create lots of options in the goal line running game. The danger with this is that committing too many against the run leaves single coverage outside.
OSU will differ from WVU in one big way however. They have made use of designed quarterback draws and qb read plays and were able to really hurt both Texas and OU with them. They have not only done this with their base offense but also with their goal line use of the diamond formation.
OSU's defense is pretty similar to last year's group as they returned a lot of guys. The biggest change is on the defensive line. They replaced their two starting ends with #96 Ryan Robinson (6'4 250) and moved defensive tackle #89 Nigel Nicholas (6'3 269) to defensive end. They start #91 James Castleman and #99 Calvin Barnett and each is just under 300 pounds. On passing downs they will bring backup end #80 Cooper Bassett (6'5 270) in as a pass rushing DT.
At linebacker OSU returns all 3 starters. Their best is #11 Shaun Lewis at the strongside position. He is a fast 5'11 225 and makes a lot of plays. #45 Caleb Lavey (6'3 240) is the classic middle linebacker and #37 Alex Elkins (6'3 230) is a quick player at the WLB spot.
OSU returns three starters in the secondary. They return two good corners in #4 Justin Gilbert (6'0 194) and #19 Brodrick Brown (5'8 185). Gilbert is a very good return man and also picked off RG3 last year while covering Terrence. #8 Daytawion Lowe (5'11 205) returns at free safety and #7 Shamiel Gary (6'0 210) has come in and replaced last year's starter Markelle Martin.
OSU runs a base 4-3 defense but will use a lot of zone coverage. They tend to be more aggressive than what we saw from KSU or OU and we can certainly expect to see a lot of looks. They have a good defensive coordinator in Bill Young who has done a good job and was built the defense that carried KU to the Orange Bowl in 2007.
OSU has an absolute weapon at kicker. #13 Quinn Sharpe has an incredibly strong leg and can hit field goals from very long range. He also handles the punting and kickoff duties and does very well there.
OSU has a very good return game so it will be critical to keep them from getting good return opportunities. I would not be surprised to see the sky kick tactic we used against Tech used here. OSU is not very good at covering kicks or punts though and is near the bottom of the country in defending those.
What must Baylor's offense do to win this one?
I have absolutely no worries about our offense moving the ball... between the 20's.
Last year a combination of predictable short yardage playcalls, missed field goals, and turnovers led to one of the most misleading statlines of all time. Baylor averaged a VERY strong 56 yards per possession against the Cowboys but were unable to convert those yards into points and had only three points to show for it going into the fourth quarter. We had 18 plays inside their ten yard line for 12 yards and two turnovers last year. That simply will not cut it. We have to execute in the red zone and we have to protect the ball.
What kinds of things can Baylor do to be less predictable in the red zone?
In my opinion Baylor needs to spread the field and use play action near the goal line. It worked well earlier this year and honestly BU ran itself into trouble against Tech by trying to hand off up the middle in tight formations. Against Texas we had a lot of success running slants to our outside WR's running underneath the vertical routes of our slot guys. I think that could really help us here. We need to mix it up and getting Navjar involved couldn't hurt.
What must the defense do?
Even good OU and KSU defenses couldn't shut down the Pokes but what the teams who have had the most success have done is they have schemed primarily to stop Randle and put the game on the young QB's. A gameplan similar to the one we used against KSU won't stop OSU but it might slow them down enough for our offense to potentially win this one. As good as OSU is on offense their QB's don't scare me nearly as much as Weeden did and putting the game on Chelf to execute over and over again is the right call.
One other thing I must mention is that the BU line must stay home against the draw play. They gashed us with three very long draws last year and we cannot allow that to happen again.
Our offense is certainly good enough to win this game if it gets enough help from the defense but I don't see our defense holding up well enough. OSU's defense has not forced nearly as many turnovers as they did last year but until I see us protect the ball against them I will be skeptical.
I hope I am wrong but OSU breaks 45 and BU breaks 30 with the turnover battle going OSU's way.