No. 12 Oklahoma starts toughest stretch, visits No. 4 Baylor
The No. 12 Sooners are set to play their three highest-ranked opponents in three straight weeks, starting Saturday at No. 4 Baylor. The rugged stretch reminds Darlington of the gauntlet of state high school playoffs.
''This is what you live for,'' Darlington said. ''This is what you play for right here. I feel like I'm back in high school, and it's one at a time. The next one doesn't matter without the first one, and we can't look past or look ahead to anything.''
Baylor (8-0, 5-0) has playoff aspirations, too. Plus, there's extra motivation for the Sooners - the Bears routed them 48-14 in Norman last season and 41-12 two years ago.
''We know exactly what we're up against, what they've done to us the last two years,'' Darlington said. ''If you don't got a knot in your stomach about it and if you haven't had it there the entire offseason, I don't think you really buy into what we're doing as a team, because I think it's been everywhere.''
''The way we've been playing, you have to feel confident - the way we've been executing, really, in all parts of the game,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ''As much as anything, we're playing together as a team. The offense has been moving the ball and putting pressure on the other team, the way they're scoring and moving the ball, and defensively, coming up with pressure and turnovers and a lot of good stops. We've got to play that way Saturday.''
Baylor leads the nation in scoring offense, total offense and passing efficiency. Receiver Corey Coleman leads the nation with 20 receiving touchdowns and 147.3 yards per game. He caught 15 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown in last year's game against the Sooners.
Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham appears to be a solid replacement for the injured Seth Russell. Stidham, a freshman, threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns in his first start, a 45-38 win over Kansas State.
Running back Shock Linwood leads the Big 12 with 130.8 yards per game, balancing an attack that averages 356.8 yards passing and 308.9 yards rushing.
Oklahoma's defense leads the Big 12 in most categories, including rush defense, pass defense, total defense and scoring defense.
Oklahoma might be one of few teams capable of beating Baylor in a shootout. The Sooners rank third nationally in scoring offense and sixth in total offense. Quarterback Baker Mayfield ranks second nationally in passer efficiency and ranks in the top 10 in college football in completion percentage and passing touchdowns per game.
The running game, once considered a liability because of an inexperienced offensive line, has pounded out 295.2 yards rushing per game in its last four contests.
''I have the utmost confidence in the offense,'' Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine said. ''Seeing how we've been playing the last few weeks, I feel there's nothing that's going to be able to stop us from scoring besides us.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .