Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming Big 12 conference game between ranked foes in our Oklahoma State vs. Baylor preview and prediction.
6:00 PM CST, Saturday, October 2, 2021; Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
Radio: Cowboys Sports Network; Baylor Sports Network
Spread: Oklahoma State -4
Rankings: Oklahoma State #19 AP, #18 Coaches; Baylor #21 AP, #24 Coaches
Fun Fact: Oklahoma State beat Baylor, 24-14, in the 1983 Bluebonnet Bowl, played in Houston. Baylor won its only other neutral site game against Oklahoma State in Wichita Falls, TX, 20-6, on October 1, 1938.
QB GERRY BOHANON
Back in early August, I predicted Bohanon would win the starting job over Jacob Zeno because Bohanon’s mobility fits what Baylor’s new offensive coordinator, Jeff Grimes, likes to do. Thus far, Bohanon has proven me right not just by winning the starting job but also by excelling in Grimes’ offense.
Through four games, Bohanon has passed for 828 yards, 7 TDs, and 0 INTs while adding another 112 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. Bohanon has completed 80.9% of his short to medium range passes. While he has completed just 50% his passes targeted 20+ yards down field, 71.4% of those deep completions have resulted in touchdowns making Bohanon’s deep ball a legitimate threat that must be respected.
That deep threat will help Baylor keep Oklahoma State from stacking the box to shut down the run, and this will be to even greater effect if Bohanon can connect on a long pass or two. Aside from the deep threat, if Bohanon can maintain his efficiency in the short to medium range, the Bears will keep Oklahoma State’s defense from leaning in against the run as it was able to last week against K-State.
RB/KR TRESTAN EBNER and ABRAM SMITH
Ebner and Abram Smith create a powerful one-two punch for Baylor’s run game. Ebner has piled up 664 all-purpose yards and one touchdown this season while Smith has added 428 yards of total offense and 5 TDs. Both are rushing for over seven yards per carry.
Oklahoma State’s run defense had a big game against K-State, but the Cats were severely limited at quarterback with its 3rd-stringer playing most of the snaps. Bohanon’s efficient passing presence and dual threat capability should be enough to create opportunities in the run game for Ebner and Smith. They will still need to make the most of those opportunities and take advantages of any small creases in the defense.
Ebner came up huge for the Bears against Iowa State with a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown, and after K-State’s Malik Knowles hit Oklahoma State with a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown, Ebner may find himself with another opportunity to score on special teams in Stillwater. Even if Ebner is unable to score on a kickoff or punt return, a big day from him the return game could go a long way toward to winning the field position game.
P ISSAC POWER
It may seem odd to single a punter out as a key player, but Power was clutch against Iowa State, and he will need to keep it up against Oklahoma State to win the field position battle and force the Cowboys to get long drives in order to score.
Last week, Power pinned the Cyclones inside their own 20 on three of four punts while averaging 54.5 yards per boot. Baylor’s defense showed some vulnerability in surrendering 479 yards of total offense to Cyclones last week, so it will be important for Power to use any punting opportunities to help the defense out by pinning the Cowboys deep on their own side of the field.
S JALEN PITRE
Pitre leads the Bears with 18 solo tackles and is second on the team 23 total tackles. His one sack and one interception on the season is also good for a first-place tie with several of his teammates.
Pitre’s pass coverage and open field tackling will be critical against the Oklahoma State offense and OSU running back Jaylen Warren. Oklahoma State had a big first half on offense against a K-State defense that didn’t get much help from its offense, but this Cowboys offense is not what we’ve become accustomed to under Mike Gundy, and it can be contained. Pitre can have a big impact on the game if he can continue to make plays in the secondary and tackle well in the open field.
QB SPENCER SANDERS
Sanders is coming off his best passing game of the season and the third best of his career after completing 22 of 34 for 344 yards and two TDs against Kansas State. Prior to the K-State game, most of Sanders’ production had come in the run game as he rushed for 102 yards in his first two games against Tulsa and Boise State.
Against a Baylor defense susceptible to the run, it will be critical for Sanders to continue to have success in the passing game to keep the Bears off balance. Baylor’s secondary is the strength of its defense, however, so nothing will be given. Sanders’ mobility gives the opportunity to make plays in the passing and running games so long as his decision making remains sound.
If Sanders can play the way he did last week and not revert to trying to make high-risk plays he was apt do in 2020 and 2019, he will have success against Baylor’s defense.
RB JAYLEN WARREN
Warren has been a revelation for the Oklahoma State offense since he exploded for 218 yards and two TDs on 32 carries against Boise State. He rushed for 123 yards on 27 carries against Kansas State last week, and he should be able to get to over 100 yards against Baylor as well.
The Bears gave up 190 yards and two TDs last week to Iowa State’s Breece Hall and 216 rushing yards on the day. Baylor has not been as good against the run as many expected they would be this season, and it will be up to Warren to take advantage of this potential weakness.
Moreover, success running the ball will be critical for Oklahoma State to keep Baylor’s offense on the sidelines and give the Cowboys’ defense valuable rest. Baylor likes to run the ball, and its offensive line has played well all season. One of the best defenses against a strong offensive line is the ability to hold the ball while the opposing offense watches on the sidelines. Warren has the big play ability to be a game changer, but his ability to simply move the chains and maintain possession of the ball is likely to be the biggest factor if Oklahoma State is to be successful.
LB MALCOM RODRIGUEZ
Rodriguez is a hard-hitting, disruptive force with 43 tackles, 33 solo tackles, and 21 drive-killing stops on the season. His presence will need to be felt against a dynamic Baylor ground game for the Cowboys to be successful.
Rodriguez’s tackling has been greatly improved over the past two games as he missed just three tackles combined against Boise State and K-State, cutting the number of missed tackles in the first two games of the season in half. Rodriguez will need to continue to his recent trend of sure tackling as well as his knack for big plays when the Bears come to town.
After struggling through a miserable 2020 filled with Covid issues and a mix of close loses and bad loses, the Bears (4-0, 2-0) are flying high with sole possession of first place in the Big 12 and a win total that already doubles their 2020 wins. The Bears also find themselves ranked in both polls for the first time this season at 21 in the AP and 24 in the USA Today/Coaches.
Now, the Bears will look build on their hot start and separate themselves a bit from the Big 12 pack with a tough matchup against a ranked foe in Stillwater. While a loss wouldn’t do much damage to Baylor’s season goals, a win would immediately raise expectations as the Bears would need just one more win to reach bowl eligibility.
After a lackluster start on offense in the first two games of the season, the Cowboys (4-0, 1-0) have found offensive life with RB Jaylen Warren. QB Spencer Sanders is improving game by game as well after sitting out the home opener due to Covid protocols.
The Cowboys have worked themselves to up to #18 in the Coaches Poll and debuted this week at #19 in the AP. This week, however, is about much more than rankings as the Cowboys look to knock off the team currently residing in first place in the Big 12 standings. A win will put the Oklahoma State in the driver’s seat for a Big 12 championship appearance as well as propel the Cowboys further up the polls.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 27, Baylor 24
This should be a fantastic game that comes down to final minutes. While I love what Baylor has been able to accomplish offensively this season, the Cowboys are the more battle-tested team and will benefit from a strong homefield advantage. Moreover, Jaylen Warren and Spencer Sanders should be able to have enough success against the Bears defense to limit the opportunities for Gerry Bohanon and company. A hot start by either team, however, could ultimately be the difference, and I wouldn’t count Baylor out. Nonetheless, I’ve got to go with the home team in this matchup.