Texas - Baylor 2010 Defense Preview - Disbanding A One Man Gang

Exciting news - we're only two games away from bowl eligibility. We can do this! The Pinstripe Bowl is one of the most esteemed and storied minor bowls of them all (several months in existence!) and if we go, Barking Carnival will secure a group package Sex & The City Tour so that we can experience the street corner where Big and Carrie first began their star crossed romance.

The tour is called the Sydney Carton Experience and it also features a carriage ride in Central Park on a fluid stained cart pulled by a fly-bitten draft horse piloted by a gruff Teamster, a glass of bubbly, and the assignment of a gay BFF for a shopping spree at Prada. That evening, you get face-control exemption from a nightclub with a name that's an adverb.

Time to talk Baylor RGIII. It's a sad state of affairs when a game against Baylor at home is a source of concern, but consider my brow furrowed. We led Baylor 40-0 at halftime last year and the fact that we're sweating this game as a legitimate loss prospect is proof of their elevation as much as our decline.

Offense

Art Briles has been a creative offensive mind since his days at Stephenville and nothing has changed. Baylor attacks you in a lot of ways and the evolution of RGIII as a passer has allowed their offense to turn the corner from mildly threatening to dangerous. This is a wide open offense and much of their game plan will be focused on isolating and attacking our safeties.

QB

I'm a big Robert Griffin fan, to put it mildly, and our refusal to recruit him was a Chernobyl level mistake. That's not second guessing. It's first knowing. Because I wrote as much at the time, predicted he'd be a game-changing college QB, and have had Cassandra's sick satisfaction of having my prediction play out as Mack and Greg Davis struggle to understand why our offense doesn't move anymore and we've lost the ability to improvise.

By the way, Griffin graduated 7th in his class at Copperas Cove, comes from a strict two parent household, has the focus of a laser, is an Olympic level athlete and the Big 12 400 meters hurdles champion, will graduate a year early, throws an elite deep ball, and has amassed both 200+ yard rushing games and 400+ yard passing games in his college career.

Why am I torturing you? Because I want you to feel my pain.

I wrote this in my 2008 preseason write-up:

Truthfully, Briles may just say fuck it (actually, it’s Baylor, so he’ll say “Goosefeathers!”) and start true freshman Robert Griffin, who is a sensational athlete. Which is what I’d do. If Baylor Football can reach respectability by 2010 it will be because of Griffin.

Briles did start Griffin as a freshman. It's 2010. And Baylor is more than respectable. And it's because of RGIII.

Griffin has really turned the corner as a passer and it's written all over his statline -

Passing: 270-180-2373-18 tds - 4 int
Rushing: 76 -384 -6 tds - 5.1 avg

He's producing around 350 yards of offense per game - the same as our entire offense.

The key point is that he's averaging 296 yards passing per game, he uses his feet to buy time for receivers downfield as much as just running, and he's learning to throw in the intermediate game as adeptly as his excellent deep ball. Like VY or Colt, Griffin picks his games to run, saving his wheels and injury exposure for big opponents or when the team need a lift. Needless to say, he'll run on Saturday.

If Baylor has one weakness in their passing game, it's that it is heavily predicated on a few routes - a lot of screens, go routes, bootlegs with one and two receiver options, and a sprinkling of slants. Baylor makes it all work into an effective passing game because Griffin is a stud and because they have so much diversity in other aspects of their offense, it's difficult to load up on anything. That written, experienced corners like Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown will get their shot at a pattern matching play going the other way.

RB

Finley has had an excellent year (105-697-5 tds, 6.6 avg) but their running game is a creation of RGIII and the zone read. Without him, Finley is just a solid FBS RB. If he's on our squad, he's averaging 4.2 yards per carry and everyone is bitching about his mediocrity. Average backs with holes look great. It's telling that all of his backups average over 6 yards per carry too. Finley has good lower body strength, a low base, and he does a nice job of shrugging off a glancing blow. KSU decided to take away Griffin in the zone read by overplaying him and Finley ran for 250 while Griffin threw for 400+.

WR

Kendall Wright is an excellent player (46-648-5tds) with outstanding ball skills. He has long arms, great timing, and the ability to find the ball in the air. He has been starting since his freshman year and has plenty of scalps on his wall. He separates more with quickness than blazing speed, but the guy is a legitimate stud. The rest of the Baylor receiving crew is productive largely because of the construct of the offense in which they operate and the numerous one-on-one opportunities Griffin affords them. That really plays into the hands of Josh Gordon - a 6-3 220 pound Malcolm Williams clone - who is averaging 21.7 yards per catch and has 7 TDs receiving this year. He's an excellent deep threat, if a bit of a one-trick pony. If we match Chykie on him, I'll chalk up 6 right now. Lanear Sampson and Tevin Reese play the role of chain-moving possession guys.

OL

Good tackle play leaps out - at least in contrast to the rest of the Big 12. Elderly Canadian firefighter Danny Watkins has proven to be a fairly solid LT for Griffin even though Baylor won't let him drink Moosehead beer on campus. Ivory Wade is the other tackle and though he's still young, I thought he really looked good in the running game and he has a real motor. He'll have his hands full with Acho or Jones though. Most of Baylor's success on offense is predicated on good schemes that allow the OL to block at advantage. The only team that whipped them - TCU - did it by outmanning them athletically and doing a great job of playing their tendencies with discipline. Like Nebraska, you have to disrupt Baylor's offense before it gets started, or you end up giving them the initiative and you're left flat-footed and confused. Kheeston Randall being a disruptor is key.

Bottom Line:

Defensively, TCU was able to shut Baylor down by outmanning their athletes at every position, breaking down their route options, and using those advantages to leverage Griffin in the pocket. They also put 35 on the board by halftime and rendered Baylor one dimensional. They had big containment sacks and pressure and although Griffin never folded, they rendered him ineffective. If we play with discipline, we can do the same (except for the offense helping part). Griffin must be accounted for on every play, we must get coverage sacks paired with containment pass rushing, and we need to hit him hard. If we play man, he's going to hurt is with his feet unless we spy him. And if we blitz, we'd better get him on the ground.

Baylor has some complementary athletes paired with Griffin, but he's not surrounded by enough quality to take the pressure off if we play smart. In that sense, Griffin is a catalyst for offense and if you remove all of his options, there's not much left for him. As much as his statistics suggest otherwise, he can't win this game by himself and we can allow him a few "Did you see that?" plays if we throttle the rest of his teammates. Play contain, disrupt early, don't lose our minds in coverage, play a lot of Kenny V at safety and we should have a winning game plan if our guys will play with some level of passion.

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