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Oklahomas offense will test Baylors defense in crucial Big 12 battle


Oklahomas offense will test Baylors defense in crucial Big 12 battle

Oklahoma has made its mark lighting up the scoreboard.

Baylor has gone unbeaten by limiting teams’ ability to do that.

When the top teams in the Big 12 meet on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC) in the league’s most important and consequential 2019 game to date, it’ll be a classic “something’s gotta give” clash with No. 10 Oklahoma’s elite offense taking on the league’s stingiest defense in No. 13 Baylor.

The winner will keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive; the loser likely will be eliminated from the conversation. Those stakes are what will make this one fascinating to watch, particularly when the Sooners have the ball. Oklahoma leads the league in points per game (48.4) and Baylor allows the fewest (19 per game).

While OU quarterback Jalen Hurts has put up impressive numbers this season (he scores a 91 in the PlayStation Player Impact Ratings and at one point was in the thick of the Heisman Trophy discussion), it’s possible he’s not the best offensive player on his team. Receiver CeeDee Lamb (86 rating) has a case.

No receiver in the country has more touchdown catches than Lamb, who is averaging an eye-popping 22.3 yards per reception (second among Power 5 receivers). He’s also fantastic after the catch, with 525 yards, an average of 11.9 yards gained after each reception. One need only queue up the video of OU’s win over Texas, when Lamb magically evaded five Texas defenders with no blockers in view, to see how spectacular he is with the ball in his hands.

“CeeDee is one of those guys that presents a lot of different options to beat you when he runs with the ball, and he’s running very aggressively right now,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said.

The cornerback likely to draw a lot of time against Lamb is Baylor’s Jameson Houston (72 rating).

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The senior has broken up five passes this season — four in the past three games — and has an interception this season. Baylor coach Matt Rhule was complimentary of Houston, particularly after the Bears were able to hold TCU’s Jalen Reagor — one of the conference’s top playmakers — to just one catch last week.

“Jameson Houston is becoming a really good corner,” Rhule said.

The Bears don’t look like they’ll be doing much double coverage of Lamb. Rhule said he doesn’t want to be short a defender in other parts of the field against Oklahoma’s multifaceted attack, and tackling Lamb when he catches the ball will be of utmost importance.

“He’s a great player, and what I like about him is he’s aggressive, he’ll block,” Rhule said. “When he catches the ball, he’s like a tailback, not like a receiver. You’ll always be short a hat if you try to take him away [with double coverage].

“So I think, for us, we have to go play our defense. … The difference with CeeDee is you have to tackle him. He’ll make his plays — we just have to make sure it’s a 20-yard gain and not an 80-yard gain and that all comes back to tackling.”

As is customary, games between top teams are won at the line of scrimmage, and there are key matchups there. Baylor has some productive players up front, led by defensive ends James Lynch (51 rating) and James Lockhart (76), who have combined for a dozen sacks.

The key matchup, however, could be in the middle, where Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey (95) squares off against Baylor defensive tackle Bravvion Roy (81).

Humphrey, the ESPN midseason All-American, was the lone returning starter from the Sooners’ 2018 Joe Moore Award-winning unit and continues to be a consistent force in the middle for this explosive Oklahoma offense. The 6-foot-5, 316-pound redshirt sophomore will be tasked with leading the OU line against a quality Baylor defensive line.

Roy has been a playmaker in his own right, particularly since Big 12 play began. Roy has all 7.5 of his tackles for loss this season in Big 12 games, making him third in the league in that department in conference games. The 6-1, 333-pound senior has recorded at least a half tackle for loss in each of Baylor’s past six games. For the season, Roy has 2.5 sacks, seven quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and blocked a field goal that sealed the Bears’ narrow win over West Virginia on Halloween.

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