Oklahoma St.-Baylor Preview
Baylor coach Art Briles understands that the only way to ensure a spot in the first College Football Playoff is to keep stringing wins together down the stretch.
The sixth-ranked Bears have a good shot to take another step toward that goal as they seek their 15th straight home win Saturday night against a Oklahoma State team mired in its longest losing streak in nine years.
After dropping to 12th in the AP poll following a loss at West Virginia, Baylor (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) responded with a 60-14 home win over Kansas on Nov. 1 and a 48-14 victory at then-No. 16 Oklahoma a week later.
The Bears, coming off their second bye in four weeks, moved up four spots after beating the Sooners while remaining seventh in Tuesday's playoff rankings.
Still, Briles knows what his squad needs to do if it hopes to get into the top four by Dec. 7, when the final rankings determine the teams that play in the national semifinals.
"That's winning every time we step on the field," he said. "At the end of the day, that's what it's going to be all about. That's what it's going to come down to."
The defending conference champions begin their final push one-half game behind league-leading and No. 5 TCU (6-1), which lost at Baylor on Oct. 11, and tied with No. 12 Kansas State (5-1), which visits Dec. 6.
"Each week, we have to go and prove ourselves," quarterback Bryce Petty said. "You can't get into the playoffs if you don't win, so these next three games are huge for us."
After throwing for a career-high 510 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions against the Horned Frogs, Petty has an average of 295.7 passing yards with six scores and no picks over his last three games.
The senior completed 28 of 48 passes for 359 yards with two touchdowns in his only career meeting with Oklahoma State, a 49-17 road loss Nov. 23. The Cowboys have won 16 of 18 in the series since Baylor joined the Big 12 in 1996.
Antawn Goodley, who had 10 catches for 118 yards and a score in last year's matchup, hauled in nine receptions for 92 yards against the Sooners. Corey Coleman will look to build on his 15 receptions for 224 yards - both the second-most in school history.
Shock Linwood ranks second in the Big 12 with 96.0 rushing yards per game and 12 TDs.
The Bears have piled up an average of 56.7 points and 672.4 yards during a home winning streak which dates to Nov. 3, 2012.
That doesn't bode well for the Cowboys, who have given up 38.0 and 493.8 over four straight losses - their worst skid since dropping five in a row in 2005.
"You can come up on them and try to stop them in the flats, but then they'll throw it over your head," coach Mike Gundy said. "If you stay off of them, they'll throw it in the flat. If you throw too many people back in coverage, they'll try to run the ball on you."
Gundy's offense is also having problems, averaging 10.0 points on the skid after posting season lows of 34 rushing yards and 192 overall in Saturday's 28-7 loss to Texas.
Daxx Garman has completed 50.8 percent of his passes for an average of 170.0 yards with two touchdowns and seven interceptions during the losing streak.
"When you play teams that are better, it's hard to have a lot of success, especially when you're struggling in certain areas," Gundy said. "Baylor's defense is pretty good, too."
In fact, the Bears lead the conference in total defense (322.2) and rushing yards allowed per game (107.8). They're also tied for the fewest average points allowed (21.0) after surrendering a combined 28 in their last two games.
The Cowboys have dropped six straight versus ranked opponents by an average of 19.4 points, including a 41-31 loss to No. 9 Missouri in last year's Cotton Bowl. They're in jeopardy of missing a bowl game for the first time in nine years.