Oklahoma coach Brent Venables has plenty of familiarity with his Baylor counterpart, Dave Aranda.
During their time as up-and-coming defensive coordinators, the pair spent time talking defensive philosophies.
But Venables said their relationship really grew when Aranda was the defensive coordinator at LSU and recruited Venables’ son, Jake.
When decision time arrived, Jake Venables picked Clemson.
“His mama won the recruiting battle,” Venables said. “Dave didn’t make the cut.”
On Saturday, Aranda’s Bears (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) will take on Venables’ Sooners (5-3, 2-3) at Norman, Okla.
Aranda not only has experience with Oklahoma’s coach, he knows the Sooners’ offense as well.
The Bears played Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl to end last season, beating the Rebels 21-7. Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator was Jeff Lebby, who now is in the same position with the Sooners.
“I think the tempo is familiar,” Aranda said of the similarities. “I think there are less spread-out sets. At least here lately, there’s been more of a focus on the run game. There’s a fair amount of runs that you remember back from OU a year ago to two years ago kind of showing up.”
The run game figures to be key Saturday.
Both teams are among the top rushing teams in the Big 12, averaging better than 200 yards per game. Baylor is 24th in the nation at 201.5 yards, while Oklahoma is 16th at 217.5.
The defenses, though, have been markedly different.
Baylor leads the conference in rush defense, allowing just 113.2 yards per game, while the Sooners are last at 189.8.
“They’re really stout inside,” Lebby said of Baylor’s defensive line. “I think for us, it’s about being really efficient, being really good on first down.”
A year ago, Baylor’s defense mauled Oklahoma, holding the Sooners to 260 yards of total offense, their lowest total since 2014. Baylor pulled out a 27-14 victory.
Venables said the matchup on the other side — his defensive line against the Bears’ offensive front — would go a long way toward deciding the outcome.
The Sooners held Iowa State to 66 rushing yards in a 27-13 win last week to run their modest winning streak to two games following a 49-0 defeat to Texas.
“It’s going to be, to me, the matchup, to be honest with you,” Venables said. “It’s a great, great challenge, and our guys know that.”
Baylor also carries momentum into Saturday’s game off a 45-17 road win over Texas Tech.
Last year, Baylor victory’s over Oklahoma snapped a seven-game Sooners’ winning streak in the series. Baylor has beaten the Sooners only once at Norman, 48-14 in 2014.
–Field Level Media