Oklahoma trying to stay undefeated against Baylor
Oklahoma needs to do what it always has in the Big 12 after the fifth-ranked Sooners were thrust back into the national championship picture without even playing a game.
They need to beat Baylor and Iowa State.
Sounds simple enough because the Sooners (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) have won all 20 previous games against No. 25 Baylor, where they play Saturday night, and have won 11 in a row against Iowa State, including all seven games as Big 12 foes.
Or is it?
''I don't know much about Baylor history, but since I've been here, this might be one of the better teams statistically,'' Sooners defensive end Frank Alexander said. ''On paper, they're looking good. They're looking good on film, too. They're a really good ballclub, so you never can second-guess it.''
Robert Griffin and the Bears (6-3, 3-3) are already bowl eligible for the second year in a row after never going to a postseason game in the Big 12 era before last season. Baylor is 5-0 while averaging 49 points and 615 total yards a game this year.
''They have really played with a lot of energy and great success at home for whatever reason,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ''They sure have lit it up.''
During an open date last weekend, the Sooners got to sit back and watch while Stanford and Boise State both got their first losses. They got to ponder renewed championship expectations that seemed to slip away last month.
Then on Friday night, Iowa State handed No. 2 Oklahoma State its first loss, 37-31 in double overtime.
If the Sooners beat Baylor and Iowa State, they would be assured of playing for the Big 12's automatic BCS berth - and maybe even a national title shot - in their Dec. 3 regular-season finale at Oklahoma State. There is no longer a Big 12 championship game.
But Oklahoma's 41-38 home loss to Texas Tech is now even more mind-boggling. The Red Raiders have since lost three in a row by an average margin of 42 points, including 66-6 to Oklahoma State last weekend.
''I think that loss was just a wake-up call for us. I feel like we've responded well,'' Stoops said. ''Everybody knows what we have in front of us, and our goals are still out there. We've just got to take advantage of the opportunity.''
Baylor is coming off the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in team history, from 21 points down to win at Kansas in overtime last week. The Bears lead the Big 12 with 568 total yards per game, and are the only FBS team averaging at least 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing per game.
''We're focusing on OU like never before,'' Baylor linebacker Elliot Coffey said. ''We're excited about this chance.''
Baylor's seven wins last season matched its most since 1995, the year before the Big 12 began play. But the Bears didn't win a game after October, a trend they've already broken this season by winning their first two November games.
''The pressure is off of us as far as being bowl-eligible goes.'' Griffin said. ''Now we can play like we have nothing to lose, which is the way you always want to play. But for us, we don't have anything to lose, we've just got a lot of good games in front of us, and we're looking to go seize them.''
After Oklahoma, Baylor plays Texas Tech at Cowboys Stadium and finishes the regular season at home against Texas.
Griffin leads the Big 12 in passing efficiency with 3,093 yards, 29 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He has also run for 478 yards and five scores, and is second nationally averaging 397 total yards per game - ahead of Oklahoma's Landry Jones (375 total yards per game).
Jones leads the Big 12 with 372 yards passing a game, and is third with 28 TDs, but no longer has Ryan Broyles, the NCAA career receiving leader (349 catches), who suffered a season-ending knee injury in their last game against Texas A&M.
''Well, it does change without him. Ryan is arguably one of the best guys in America,'' Baylor coach Art Briles said. ''They are not without. They have got good people, they have good schemes and they have a guy throwing the football that is doing it as well as anyone in America right now at this level. They are, as always, a perennial top-five team and it didn't just start in 2000.''
At home this season, Griffin has completed 78 percent (118 of 152) of his passes for 17 touchdowns with no interceptions. The last time he was picked off at home was last November against Oklahoma.
Griffin still has his primary target, even though senior Kendall Wright is bothered by a sore ankle and has gone three games without a touchdown.
Wright holds nearly every career receiving record at Baylor and has catches in all 46 of his games. That is one game short of matching Broyles for the second-longest consecutive streak for current FBS players behind the 49 in a row by Houston's Tyson Carrier.
''When he walks onto a field, he is not thinking about not winning,'' Briles said of Wright. '' He is thinking that he is about to get into somebody in a big way and that is what you want and that is what you like and that is what bleeds off onto other people.''