It would be easy for No. 15 Oklahoma State to overlook 0-5 Baylor.
The Cowboys (4-1, 1-1 in the Big 12) and the Bears were idle last Saturday. Baylor has had a miserable season, losing five in a row to Liberty, UTSA, Duke, Oklahoma and Kansas State. The only truly competitive game was a narrow 41-49 loss to the Sooners.
On the other hand, OSU has beaten Tulsa, South Alabama, Pittsburgh and most recently Texas Tech in Lubbock. An upset loss to TCU is the only slip up for the Cowboys.
Baylor will be a heavy underdog Saturday. The game is in Stillwater at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised by FS1.
And Baylor has had a rash of season-ending injuries. Wide receiver Chris Platt, defensive end Xavier Jones and punter/placekicker Drew Galitz are all out for the rest of the season. Add to that a lackluster running attack (just 201 total yards on 89 carries in the last three games).
Against Kansas State, Baylor had a lead late in the third quarter but lost 20-33.
“It’s really frustrating knowing that we’ve had the ball to go win, and we haven’t,” said Baylor quarterback Zach Smith, who was 26-of-44 for 291 yards and a touchdown in the game at K-State. “I think we know as a team how good we can be and how good we are. . . . We’ve been extremely close, and we’ve been that close with a ton of missed assignments. We know how close we are, we know how good we can be. It’s just getting there, that last step.”
Last year, OSU fell to Baylor 24-35 in Waco. The Cowboys had the ball for 41 minutes and 30 seconds and converted 12 of 20 third-down plays. Four turnovers – including a Justice Hill fumble on the 1-yard line – proved to be the difference for the Bears.
But interim coach Jim Grobe is gone and Coach Matt Rhule has taken over the Baylor program.
It would be hard to OSU not to look ahead to the next three games on the schedule: Texas, West Virginia and OU.
OSU coach Mike Gundy said a key to success was forgetting about the TCU loss and forging ahead.
“The outside world takes wins and losses differently than we do,” Gundy said. “Every Saturday, half the teams in the country lose, so half the teams in the country have to go back to work on Sunday and Monday or it’s not fun the next week. We try to stay level-headed, even with wins.
“People outside the program go crazy when we have big wins and start making hotel reservations for this or that, but in our world, we have a body of work that we have to get accomplished every week. I hope our guys understand that from the history of our program, and I think they do. I think you’re going to see eight weeks from now that there’s going to be a lot of parity in this league.
“It’s going to be exciting for fans, but it’s going to be hard on the coaches because there’s a lot of teams in the same boat. It’s going to be based on the health of your team, turnovers and key plays on special teams. We’re one of those that’s right in the middle of that.”
OSU’s offense is close to setting school, league and national records but one area of concern is field goal kicker Matt Ammendola, who missed attempts from 18 and 22 yards in a tough win over Texas Tech.
“Matt’s the best guy,” Gundy said. “He didn’t have a good day. We’ll keep working at it and put him back out there again. Hopefully he’ll make them.”
Ammendola has a reputation for being more comfortable kicking longer field goals.
On the year, the sophomore is 8-of-12 overall, including 5-of-7 inside of 30 yards and 3-of-5 from 30 and beyond. He has made his two longest kick attempts of the year, from 48 and 53 yards, while three of his misses have been inside 35 yards.
Texas Tech was able to execute a perfect onside kick that the Red Raiders recovered that could have been a turning point in the game.
“We knew they were gonna onside, and we moved everybody up,” Gundy said. “The guy kicked a great kick. That ball rolled on the ground, then jumped up.
“It wasn’t like we didn’t know it was coming. It was just a terrific kick.”
OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph is climbing on the list of potential Heisman Trophy candidates.
Before the off week, Rudolph led the nation in points responsible for and had a three-touchdown lead on 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, who was in second. Rudolph ranked No. 2 nationally in passing touchdowns and is ninth among FBS quarterbacks with five rushing touchdowns.
Rudolph has 28 school records. He entered 2017 with at least 14 of the top marks in Cowboy history, and he is closing in on school records for career pass completions, career touchdowns responsible for, career passing touchdowns and others.