Baylor, despite losing to TCU last weekend, still has a chance to make the Big 12 Championship Game for the second time in three seasons.
Oklahoma, despite a string of narrow wins, is still in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth.
All of this underscores Saturday’s game at Baylor being elevated to a must-win to keep those hopes alive.
The Bears (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) are coming off a 30-28 loss to TCU, giving up 468 passing yards and 570 yards of total offense — both more than 140 yards more than the Baylor defense had allowed in any other game this season.
Baylor coach Dave Aranda said his team struggled with communication in that game and would need to be better against the Sooners.
“When things are competitive or pressurized, communication halts,” Aranda said. “I think that happened on Saturday, both offensively and defensively. When you silo off, where it’s, ‘I’m kind of tight right now and this is a big moment, and now all the sudden I’m not talking anymore and all the sudden I don’t know what the guy to my left or right is doing so I may just do my own thing.’ There was some of that. Communication breeds confidence.”
The Bears dropped one spot to No. 13 following the loss.
Baylor has won all five games this season in Waco, Texas, including wins over a pair of teams that were ranked at the time.
No. 8 Oklahoma (9-0, 6-0) is looking to continue its recent dominance in November. The Sooners have won 23 consecutive games in November, without a loss in the month since 2014.
In 2015, Lincoln Riley’s first season as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator, Oklahoma won three consecutive games against ranked opponents, beginning with a win over then-No. 6 Baylor.
That stretch gave rise to the Sooners’ talk of “Championship November.” Oklahoma has won the Big 12 every season since then and used its November run to put itslef in position to claim a CFP berth in four of the last six seasons.
“It’s kind of similar to right now,” Riley, now the Sooners’ head coach, said of that 2015 run. “We had a lot of really good football teams to play at the end of the month and the end of the season. We got on a run and probably played some of our best ball of the year. I remember the phrase starting to get used right then, and then each year it’s become … you put yourself in a position, and fortunately we’ve been able to do it all the years.”
The last time the Sooners played at Baylor, the Bears led 31-10 at halftime before Oklahoma outscored Baylor 24-0 after the break to pull off a 34-31 victory.
To that point, Nik Bonitto was a defensive role player for the Sooners, but a flurry of late plays, including a game-clinching interception in the final minute with the Bears driving, elevated Bonitto’s confidence. Since, he’s been one of the defensive centerpieces for Oklahoma.
“He’s taken off from then and is a guy we’re going to need a big week from this week as well,” Sooners’ defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said.
The Sooners have won seven consecutive games in the series.
Baylor will be playing its first game since associate head coach and outside linebackers coach Joey McGuire was named Texas Tech’s head coach. Though McGuire isn’t coaching the Red Raiders this season, he immediately left the Bears to begin recruiting for Texas Tech.
Grinch was among the other candidates for the Texas Tech job.
–Field Level Media