Oklahoma State and Baylor quietly have compiled unbeaten records heading into their showdown today.
Baylor went 2-7 last year, but this year’s squad is much improved. The Bears (4-0, 2-0 Big 12) pulled off a 31-29 stunner over then-No. 14 Iowa State last week. It’s the first time the 22nd-ranked Bears have cracked the AP Top 25 under second-year coach Dave Aranda.
“The team we’re playing is the best team we’ve played up to this point,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “They’re moving the ball very effectively, balanced on offense, fast and very aggressive.”
That key Big 12 game kicks off at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
Other games of interest today: Texas plays at TCU at 11 a.m. on ABC; Arkansas visits Georgia at 11 a.m. on ESPN; Michigan visits Wisconsin today, also at 11 a.m. on FOX; Cincinnati plays at Notre Dame at 1:30 p.m. on NBC; top-ranked Alabama hosts Ole Miss today at 2:30 on CBS; Oklahoma visits Kansas State at 1:30 p.m. on FOX; and Texas A&M tries to bounce back from a loss, hosting Mississippi State tonight at 6 on the SEC Network.
Baylor ranks sixth nationally in rushing offense. The Bears’ ground game features Abram Smith, who has rushed for 413 yards and averages 7.2 yards per carry, and Trestan Ebner, who has rushed for 348 yards and averages 7.0 yards per carry.
Ebner is a threat in the return game, too. He ranks fourth nationally with 166 all-purpose yards per game.
Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon has been efficient, completing 73% of his passes. He has thrown seven touchdown passes without an interception.
Oklahoma State (4-0, 1-0) moved into the Top 25 at No. 19 after a 31-20 win over then-No. 25 Kansas State.
“What a great opponent this week,” Aranda said. “Talented, on the rise. I think Oklahoma State has a great identity now, so I’m excited for that matchup.”
Oklahoma State has found its running game the past two weeks, with Jaylen Warren becoming the latest big-time producer. The transfer from Utah State ran for 218 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago against Boise State and had 204 yards from scrimmage last week against Kansas State.
“Physical, explosive — he’s got a turbo pack on back there,” Aranda said. “So, he jumps off the screen. He’s been the difference in their offense, really.”
Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders is finding his groove now that his receivers are back. After a relatively slow start to the season, he completed 22 of 34 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas State.
“Right away, you can see his legs and his ability to create,” Aranda said. “He gets in the red zone and critical must-have areas, and now all of a sudden, the running back run becomes a quarterback keep. So, they save the best for last, in terms of the closer they get.”
Gundy said five years ago, he moved four scholarships from offense to defense. The results have been solid — the Cowboys rank 38th nationally in overall defense and 20th in run defense.
“The short-term solution is to move more scholarships, play the numbers game, play percentages, try to beef up your defense to give you a better chance to slow people down and play good special teams, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now,” Gundy said.
Baylor nose guard Siaki Ika stands out on film, and there’s a big reason why — he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 350 pounds. He only has two tackles this season, but he is disruptive and makes the job easier for his teammates.
“They’ve got a nose guard — I don’t know what he weighs,” Gundy said. “He might weigh 360, I don’t know, but he’s tough to deal with. He plays low. He flat backs. He drives you back.”
Gundy said Sanders has handled challenges well the past two years.
“You have a very competitive, humble, unselfish person that loves to play football,” Gundy said. “I’ve never heard him say a bad word about anybody on our team. I’ve never heard him complain about not having healthy linemen last year. I didn’t hear him complain this year about not having wide receivers. He just goes and plays. He’s first class, he’s got character, he’s humbled, he’s unselfish.”
A&M-MSU: No one is disputing that quarterback Zach Calzada must improve if No. 15 Texas A&M hopes to bounce back from its first loss when the Aggies host Mississippi State tonight.
What coach Jimbo Fisher wants to make clear is that Calzada is far from the only one who needs to up his game for the Aggies.
“Zach’s a new guy,” Fisher said. “We’ve got experienced receivers, backs, tight ends and all that. We have to play better around him.”
Calzada struggled against Arkansas in his second start since Haynes King broke his leg, throwing for just 151 yards with an interception in a 20-10 loss. Junior receiver Ainias Smith agreed with Fisher and said the rest of the offense is focused on making things easier for the quarterback this week.
“Our main job right now is to make sure Zach is back there comfortable,” Smith said. “He should be able to know that he can get the ball to us and we’re going to be able to do something with it. When it comes to getting open, I feel like we’ve got to work harder in practice.”
Calzada enters the game ranked last in the SEC with a 52.78 percent completion percentage. But this could be a good opportunity for the sophomore to have a breakout game when he faces a defense ranked 98th in the country, allowing 252.5 yards passing a game.Mississippi coach Mike Leach is searching for ways to shore up his defense this week before facing the Aggies.
“Big plays haunt us,” he said. “We have to get better at safety. Whether we have to simplify something or what, our safeties can’t miss some of the things they are missing.”
Texas-TCU: Texas got run over by a future Southeastern Conference foe (Arkansas) in its only other road game this season, and in recent years the Longhorns have been a winning remedy for TCU when the Horned Frogs are coming off a loss.
Something just feels different this time for the Longhorns going into their Big 12 road opener today. It will be their first visit to a conference opponent since they and sixth-ranked Oklahoma accepted invitations to join the SEC no later than the 2025 season.
The Longhorns (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) have been scoring at a blistering pace since Casey Thompson became the starting quarterback and Bijan Robinson is running free. They have scored 128 points in Thompson’s two starts, with 600 total yards in both. Texas hasn’t punted in consecutive games for the first time in its history.
First-year Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said Thompson owns the game plan because he studies and knows what they are trying to do. The coach said he knows how to get everyone lined up and even reminds running backs where to go for check-down passes.
“That comes because he prepares really well,” Sarkisian said. “I think he is seeing the benefits of that and obviously we are too.”
TCU (2-1) goes into its Big 12 opener still smarting from a home loss to Dallas-Fort Worth rival SMU. The Mustangs and the aftermath of a postgame flag flap were as much a topic of conversation as was Texas when coach Gary Patterson met the media this week.
The Horned Frogs are 7-2 against their former Southwest Conference rival since joining them in the Big 12 in 2012. TCU’s last four wins in the series have followed a loss the previous week, including the past two years with Max Duggan at quarterback.
“We’ve just been fortunate enough to play well against them the last two years,” Duggan said. “But it doesn’t mean anything to help us win this week. They’re a different team, we’re a different team.”