Oklahoma State faces a team David Ubben earlier this week called “the best 0-5 team in the history of college football” in Baylor for Homecoming this weekend. Hopefully the Bears go back to Waco as the best 0-6 team in the history of college football on Saturday evening. Here are three things to know about Matt Rhule’s bunch in his first year as the head coach.
1. Not the Same Team
Mike Gundy said in his Monday press conference that Oklahoma State didn’t even bother watching film on Baylor’s first few games. The Bears played OU to a 49-41 loss in their Big 12 opener before falling to Kansas State 33-20 in a game in which they only scored three points in the first two quarters.
You’re getting less of the team that lost to Liberty (!) in Game 1 and probably more of the one that rolled with Big Daddy Baker for four quarters in Waco. Rhule is clearly committed to #theprocess, and it’s showing.
“I’m having a great time doing this — I really am,” Rhule said this week. “Our coaches are having a great time doing this. You can see the light go on in a couple more kids’ eyes each and every week, and as I see the light go on for Denzel Mims and Jordan Williams, I say to myself, ‘Just keep getting more and more kids have the switch go off.’ … Now we’ve got to go learn to win, and that’s really hard to do.”
— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) October 12, 2017
2. They can throw it, but …
After the first two games of Arizona transfer Anu Solomon at quarterback, Baylor inserted sophomore Zach Smith behind center. He’s led them to 340 passing yards a game, but Baylor just has not been able to run the ball (partly because they’ve started at least four different offensive lines). Here are their rushing totals from the five games they’ve played.
- Liberty: 254 yards (7.5 YPC)
- UTSA: 137 yards (4.4)
- Duke: 98 yards (3.6)
- Oklahoma: 60 yards (1.7)
- Kansas State: 84 yards (3.1)
“We worked on some individual skills and blocking and tackling,” Rhule said this week. “We’ve got to get a lot tougher running the ball and stopping the run. One of our main issues is missing tackles and getting hurt on long runs.”
Fortunately for them, Oklahoma State struggles more to defend the pass than it does the run. But when you’re coming in with a seemingly one-dimensional offense, I’m not sure it’s going to worry Glenn Spencer and Co. as much as normal.
Also, Smith is completing just 55 percent of his passes and has 8 TDs to 5 INTs. Can Baylor be mistake-free enough to escape OSU on Saturday? It doesn’t seem like it.
3. All the mistakes (and injuries)
Baylor is young and dumb and riddled with injuries. That’s not derogatory. That’s just what they are. Rhule has booted several players and several others (including their best receiver, Chris Platt and All-Big 12 DE K.J. Smith) will be out on Saturday. They have played 16 (!) true freshmen, and 73 percent of their total offensive yardage has come from underclassmen.
One other interesting thing to note: Baylor has a defensive lineman backing up its current punter.
This sounds a lot like Mike Gundy’s first year in 2005 when he kicked off Prentiss Elliott and what felt at the time like half the program. That team won one Big 12 game, which is around what I imagine Baylor will end up with as well.
Because of the young players and the inexperience, Baylor has committed 8.8 penalties a game (120th in the country) for nearly 70 yards (Oklahoma State is 5.8 for 52 yards by comparison). Going on the road (where Baylor averages 10.5 penalties) against a top 15 team with a top five offense and committing double-digit penalties does not seem like the formula for success for a Big 12 bottom feeder.
An unintended consequence of all the injuries, however, is that it has given young players like WR Denzel Mims the opportunity to show their stuff early (Mims is second in the country with 7 receiving TDs).
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) September 30, 2017
And Baylor is getting healthier. The Bears will likely play four RBs on Saturday, including JaMycal Hasty, who hasn’t played since Week 1, and get the return of former thorn in Mitchell Solomon’s side, TE Ish Wainright.
“We are about as healthy as we have been since the start of the year in terms of bodies that are out there playing for us,” Rhule said this week. “We have a lot of guys that are banged up from the season. This is a man’s game, and it’s about who can play through the bumps and bruises when they don’t feel 100 percent.”
Still, this is the type of team Oklahoma State should pound early and often on Saturday as Mason Rudolph tries to touch off his Big 12 career by defeating every single school.