The Big XII Championship between the No. 9 Baylor Bears (10-2, 7-2 in Big XII) and the No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys (11-1, 8-1) kicks off Saturday. The kickoff at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, is scheduled for noon ET, and the game airs on ABC.
Baylor enters the conference championship on a three-game winning streak, including an upset of the No. 13 Oklahoma Sooners on Nov. 13. Pro Football Focus selected Bears senior RB Abram Smith Second-Team All-Big XII in a stacked running back conference. Smith rushed for the second-most yards in the Big XII (1,366) and hit paydirt 12 times. According to USA TODAY’s Sagarin, Baylor is 8-4 against the spread (ATS) and 6-6 Over/Under (O/U) with the 49th-toughest schedule.
Oklahoma State has rattled off five straight wins after losing to the Iowa State Cyclones on Oct. 23. The Cowboys have one of the best defenses in the nation. Oklahoma State’s offense ranks second (out of 130 FBS teams) in predicted points added (PPA), fifth in success rate, and first in opponents’ third-down conversion rate. The Cowboys are 9-2-1 ATS and 4-7-1 O/U with the 24th-toughest schedule, according to Sagarin.
Oklahoma State beat Baylor 24-14 at home in Week 5, covering as 4-point favorites. The Cowboys outgained the Bears by 121 total yards, possessed the ball for nearly ten additional minutes, and held Baylor to just ten 1st-down conversions. Also, Oklahoma State boat raced Baylor 42-3 last season in Bears head coach Dave Aranda’s first year on the job.
- Opening Line: Oklahoma State -5
- Current Line: Oklahoma State -5.5
- Total (Over/Under): 46.5
Money is pouring in on Oklahoma State, and the oddsmakers have increased the Cowboys’ spread up from a 5-point opener. According to Pregame.com, nearly 75% of cash is on Oklahoma State, with roughly 70% of the money on the Under; the total hasn’t moved.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has been at the helm since 2005. The Cowboys have won the Big XII once in the Gundy era (2011). Over the past ten seasons, the Cowboys are 27-17-1 ATS vs. ranked teams, 9-2 ATS on neutral sites, and 47-40-3 ATS against Big XII competition. Also, Oklahoma State is 4-6 overall and 5-5 ATS vs. Baylor over that span.
Oklahoma State thoroughly dominated Baylor in their first meeting this season despite losing the turnover battle 3-0. The Cowboys did so by shutting down the Bears’ attack and forcing Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon to beat them in the air. Baylor’s rushing game of the season and Bohanon’s completion rate came against Oklahoma State.
Unfortunately for Baylor fans, I don’t see this contest playing out much differently. The Bears still want to establish the run, and that’s going to be very difficult Saturday. Oklahoma State’s defense ranks sixth in PPA, fifth in success rate, and fourth in line yards per snap.
Plus, it’s not like Baylor’s attack has improved since it played the Cowboys. The Bears couldn’t sustain drives vs. the Cowboys earlier this season because their ground game got shut down. Also, Oklahoma State got pressure in Bohanon’s all afternoon and has the highest sack rate in the country. Furthermore, not only does Baylor rank 53rd in 3rd-down conversion rate across all distances. But, on passing downs, the Bears are 96th in success rate.
The bottom line is Oklahoma State will have the ball a lot more than Baylor because the Cowboys will win the line of scrimmage. Oklahoma State proved it could win by margin earlier this season against Baylor despite a terrible offensive performance.
PICK: Oklahoma State -4.5 (-112 on FanDuel)
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