Earlier this week, a friend who makes his living in the sports gaming industry hit me up with instant message that asked "Baylor beats Oklahoma on Thursday night by...?"
I can remember a time when that kind of question would have been laughable. Now?
"I have Baylor by 17, but I may talk myself into an OU cover by kickoff," I responded.
The oddsmakers set the line on this game on Sunday at 14 points, and it hasn't moved significantly all week. Prior to this, the only other programs to be favored by double digits against Bob Stoops' Sooners were Texas and Florida State. Adding Baylor to that list may feel odd, but can you really question it at this point?
Yet, as predicted, I'm warming to OU's chances here.
OU's foundering offense seemed to find an identity in the last few weeks. Josh Heupel appears more comfortable with Blake Bell's skill set, and OU's offensive line has become an even greater strength as the year has progressed. Baylor's defense has improved from years past, but there's no denying that the Sooners' rugged running game plays against its weaknesses.
And despite the flameouts late last season, Mike Stoops has a far better handle on how to scheme against spread offenses than he gets credit for. You can focus on the occasional busts by cornerback Zack Sanchez, but OU has one of the better secondaries in the country and will test the Bears' prolific offense more so than any other team on their schedule. OU also has a more fearsome defensive line than any other Baylor has seen this season.
The biggest concern to me isn't exactly that Baylor has outgunned. It's the temptation for a team to panic when trying to keep up with the Bears' all-out attack. OU will be best-served by pounding the rock with Bell and a stable of solid running backs, then using play action to set up its passing game. If Baylor gets out to an early lead, would Heupel give up on that game plan?
I still think Baylor wins this game – the school has even ditched its famed tarp. But consider this an official waffle. Either way, should be a fun game to watch.