Oklahoma re-entered the national championship picture without taking the field. The Sooners can dramatically improve their case by winning their final three games of the regular season.
The first of the three may not be easy against a Baylor team that hopes it’s posed to defeat its Big 12 rival for the first time.
The fifth-ranked Sooners look to begin the home stretch of their season by continuing their utter domination of No. 25 Baylor in Waco on Saturday night.
Most sports books monitored by SportsOptions have installed the Sooners as 15-point road favorites, with the total set at 75.
Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1) was in danger of falling out of the national championship discussion following a stunning 41-38 loss to Texas Tech on Oct. 22, dropping eight spots to No. 11 in the Top 25.
However, the Sooners recovered to defeat Kansas State and Texas A&M in their next two games. They then enjoyed a bye last week, and vaulted back into the BCS title picture as Stanford and Boise State fell from the ranks of the unbeaten.
That picture is rather crowded, as Oklahoma – also fifth in the BCS – is one of eight one-loss teams in the AP poll just behind top-ranked LSU and No. 2 Oklahoma State, which are both unbeaten.
The Sooners, who beat Texas A&M 41-25 on Nov. 5 when they last took the field, need to win all three of their remaining games – including a matchup to end the regular season at Oklahoma State – to have a chance at getting back to the BCS championship.
That scenario will be moot if coach Bob Stoops’ team can’t defeat the Bears.
“And now that we’ve discussed that, all that matters is Baylor,” Stoops said. “What can we do something about?
“That’s being as thorough and as good as we can possibly be to play Baylor on the road down there. Then that leads us into the next week (against Iowa State). There’s a lot that’s still in front of us.”
Unfortunately for the Sooners, they’ll be playing the home stretch of their schedule without the NCAA’s career receptions leader. Senior wide receiver Ryan Broyles caught 349 passes – 45 for scores – in a four-year stint in Norman that came to a sudden end two weeks ago when he tore his left ACL during the win over Texas A&M.
“He’s such a special, special player,” Stoops said of Broyles, who left the field in tears. “It’s deflating for him and for all of us. … Your heart drops when you first hear it.”
Oklahoma’s offense may be hard-pressed to maintain its 45.4 scoring average without Broyles, but junior quarterback Landry Jones will give it a shot. He has completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 3,349 yards, 28 TDs and nine INTs while getting sacked just three times. He threw three touchdown passes against Baylor last November in Waco, completing 26 of 39 overall for 325 yards with one interception as Oklahoma won 53-24.
The Sooners are 20-0 all-time against the Bears including 10-0 in Waco.
These, however, may not be the same old Bears (6-3, 3-3). Baylor has won all five of its games at home, where it’s averaging 49.0 points. Last week at Kansas, the Bears rallied from 21 points down in the fourth quarter to win 31-30 in overtime.
Baylor boasts the top-ranked offense in the Big 12, averaging 40.3 points and 567.9 total yards per game.
“We know we can put up points in a hurry,” junior quarterback Robert Griffin said.
Griffin leads the conference with a 74.2 completion percentage and a 188.6 passer rating, compiled with the help of 29 touchdown passes with only five interceptions. Also a threat on the ground, Griffin has gained 478 yards rushing with five more scores, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
Griffin put on a stunning display last week, completing 22 of 29 passes for 312 yards with three touchdowns and one interception while running for 103 yards and a TD on 10 carries.
Senior wideout Kendall Wright is Griffin’s top target with 81 receptions for 1,073 yards and nine touchdowns, but he hasn’t reached the end zone in his last three games.
The Sooners held Griffin to 124 yards on 20-for-33 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions in last season’s meeting, though he did gain 83 yards on 12 rushes.
“You look at OU’s defense for the last 10 years, ever since Coach Stoops has been there and they are a top 10 defense,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Those guys are good, extremely good. They do a great job schematically; they put a lot of pressure on you.”