Do not fling teh bowie knife at meh!
A few quick thoughts on what to look for from Baylor before heading into the weekend.
I'll also explain why I think we won't cover the 28 point spread.
Baylor on Offense:
Freshman QB Robert Griffin is a sublime talent and the focus of Baylor's offense. They have good to great personnel at tackle and center, not so much at guard, where one starter goes 6-4 270. OT Jason Smith is a likely 1st or 2nd round NFL draft choice. Briles does a particularly nice job of limiting Griffin's choices while not sacrificing versatility within the offense though they rely heavily on boots and the screen game. There is no real traditional intermediate passing game to speak of. Griffin is most dangerous on the roll where Baylor gives him a simplified two man route - one shallow, one deep. Often the playside clears while his receiving options come late from the opposite side of the field. If nothing looks good, he'll tuck it and run. They also play action to this roll out off of the zone read, which is particularly dangerous as it draws your DE down to tackle the HB fake and Griffin is left eyeball to eyeball with a LB on the edge.
This is basic stuff but it puts a lot of pressure on your playside DE to contain and because we can't play or coach zone defense at any appreciable level, we're going to have to assign a spy at times. There could be some value in assigning a nickel in that role - sort of a shallow free safety - but you're rolling dice on deep shots over the top. Griffin's accuracy on the move throwing deep is outstanding, but declines markedly the closer the receiver is to him. He can't get air under the ball and tends to aim it rather than throw it. The result is generally a football skipping across the turf somewhere around Justin Akers' shoelaces.
The Baylor running game is built off of the zone read and draws, though Griffin isn't always flawless in his choices. Jay Finley is a solid guy with some quickness but most of his 5.9 yard per carry average is attributable to great blocking at the tackle position and Griffin's threat on the edge. He's not a gamebreaker, but he will bust 25 on you and has the hip power to run through
Deon Beasley weak tacklers. Baylor's best receiving threat is freshman Kendall Wright - a sneaky fast basketball player in cleats. He was an All-State basketball player, a dominant football player, and was the 3A state long jump and triple jump champion - and Rivals 3 star. It's this kind of thing that makes me chortle at some of the recruiting rankings. Football 101 Tip: when a superior basketball player and track athlete clearly loves contact and excels at football, they are far more likely to be a dominant college player than their ranking usually indicates. I digress. Thomas White is a solid big possession WR and David Gettis is a big bodied deep threat. They're both big dudes and can present some issues blocking when they're interested in doing so.
You stop Baylor's offense by smothering it before it starts. You have to apply pressure and accept the risk of a big play. Baylor's response is generally their screen game, shovel passes, Griffin improvisation. If you play smart and tackle well, it's easily addressed. If you can inflict a negative play, Baylor has a lot of trouble dealing with 2nd and 14. We'll be moderaly successful at doing this, but I'm fairly certain that Baylor will isolate guys certain guys in our secondary and our LBs to make open field tackles both in the passing and running game.
If you're looking for trick plays, Kendall Wright can throw.
Baylor on Defense
They don't pressure the passer all that well and their run defense is suspect. The secondary is shaky deep so it will concede the underneath routes. The DL makes very few plays on your side of the LOS. It's mostly about holding on and not giving up the big play so it's not surprising that converting 3rd downs is fairly easy for an offense with a pulse. Joe Pawelek is a legitimate All Big 12 LB and Baylor does a nice job of shielding him along with undersized LBs Antonio Jones and Antonio Johnson. Pawelek has 105 tackles and 3 interceptions. He's a good athlete with below average speed - he's extremely coordinated, moves well laterally, can play passing routes adeptly. The key to running on Baylor is getting your OL to the next level to harass Pawelek and the LBs and safety Jordan Lake or dominating their DL at the point of attack so profoundly that those four get caught up in the wash. So, I'm hoping for #1.
We'll see a lot of Fozzy Whitaker in this game - 15+ carries seems likely. Similarly, Shipley and Malcolm Williams present significant physical matchup worries for Baylor's secondary. We should score in the high 30s to mid 40s. I don't anticipate that being enough to cover the line, but I'm happy to be wrong. An 11:00 am game after a tough stretch with some key dudes being held out with injury suggests a slow start.