A typical result last Saturday, at long last. New Mexico State is a bad team and we treated them like one, winning comfortably while playing fairly well. It gave hope to the notion that this season might be somewhat predictable after all, although it still leaves this game in Waco as a question mark. Not to keep on repeating myself, but this could be the fork in the road for the entire season. Win a game in Waco, and there are enough other winnable games left on the schedule to maybe, just maybe sneak into a bowl. Lose on Saturday and it will be awfully tough, but a road win over the Bears keeps those hopes alive.
With that said, and this game's importance set, let's take a closer look at the Bears, considering we haven't played them since 2007.
One Man Army
When Robert Griffin III first appeared on the scene, he was cast as Baylor's savior. They finished 4-8 his freshman season, but he played magnificently and they beat Texas A&M comfortably at home, giving hope for the future. Last season he started off with a win on the road against Wake Forest, but he then hurt his knee and was out for the season. That leaves this year as the chance for Griffin to explode, and he has. 971 yards passing, 4.4 yards a carry and 11 of the team's 12 offensive touchdowns in the Bears' first 4 games. He could be the most electrifying player in the Big 12, and he is the focal point and then some of the Baylor Bears' offensive attack.
It would be really simple to just say "stop him and we'll be sure to win!". However, you just don't stop players like Robert Griffin. I would imagine we will spy him a bunch and force him to use his arm to beat us, but he's plenty good enough to beat us with his arm if we don't play good on the backend.
Rest of the Cast
While Robert Griffin is the best player on the Bears' offense, he isn't the only player. Jay Finley is the primary running back, averaging over 5 yards a carry so far this season. He has the one other touchdown besides Griffin. Terrance Ganaway is the backup running back with even better numbers, averaging nearly 8 yards a touch while Kendall Wright is Griffin's favorite target on the outside. He's joined by Terrance Williams, who is more of a possession receiver, and Josh Gordon, who is averaging nearly 17 yards a catch. The starting tight end is Brad Taylor, who has a 68-yard touchdown catch to his name but not much else.
The Bears' offense is a typical spread attack with the ball being literally spread out between numerous people. It all starts and ends with the ball resting in Robert Griffin's hands though, making him the most important player by far. Besides Griffin, the key is to stop the running game, as both Finley and Ganaway as well as Griffin can take any touch to the house. If this Bears offense is anything, it's athletic and ridiculously fast, so the focus has to be limiting big plays. The Bears offense survives on big plays and sheer athleticism, so forcing them to carry out long, methodical drives may work.
It's an Offensive Day and Age, Folks
The defense at Baylor represents the trend college football has been undergoing for some time now; offense, offense, offense. It's their clear weakness, particularly the back four. Their best player is Antonio Johnson, a linebacker who follows the company line and is incredibly speedy for a backer. He's joined by Chris Francis at MLB, a veteran leader for the Bears' defense, and a converted safety in Elliot Coffey, who is naturally quick to the ball. The front four has a big body in the middle in Phil Taylor, but not much else surrounding him. Gary Mason Jr. and Terrance Lloyd man the end positions, while Nicholas Jean-Baptiste mans the nose tackle spot. Together, Jean-Baptiste and Taylor weigh a meaty 670 pounds, which will be an interesting test for our work-in-progress offensive line.
The secondary is led by sophomore Chance Casey, a second-year starter who ran track in the spring for Baylor and was named to the All-Big 12 freshman team after last season. Romie Blaylock plays opposite Casey, and as a converted receiver has above-average ball skills if not great height (he stands only 5'9"). Fifth-year senior Tim Atchison is the leader of the defense at free safety while Byron Landor is a JUCO transfer who starts at strong safety, or what the Bears call the 'hero' position for reasons unbeknownst to man.
Let's Not Repeat 2006, Huh?
2006 was only a good year for preceding 2007 and all of it's irresistible charm. The lowest point of 2006 was the Saturday afternoon in Waco, when Kansas literally tried thinking of whatever it could in an attempt to lose the game to the Bears. They eventually settled on giving up three touchdowns in the final 9:22 of action, losing 36-35 in a game the Jayhawks clearly should have won. It was painful enough to watch the first time, let's not repeat such a performance in our next trip down to Waco.
Turning Point for Two Programs
For teams like Baylor and Kansas, bowl games are the ultimate goal entering the season. No real hopes of a national championship exist, just an invite to the Insight Bowl is plenty good enough for the Jayhawks and Bears, thanks. Particularly for Baylor, who has not gone bowling since 1994 when they lost 3-10 to Washington State in the now Alamo Bowl. For either team to get the mandatory six wins and qualify for the postseason, they likely need this game. Baylor has a step up on Kansas, winning 3 games in the non-conference, but they have a tougher conference slate. Both teams have the bowl game in their sights, it's just a matter of winning the game on Saturday afternoon.
So Now That We're Here
This is obviously a very big game for both programs, as the winner has a decent shot to go bowling and the loser is facing an uphill climb to reach postseason play. There will be a lot at stake, and the Bears are the favorites considering they have the best player in Robert Griffin and are playing at home. However, this is still a winnable game for the Jayhawks. They just have to contain Griffin in the running game and bend-but-not-break on defense, forcing the Bears to have long drawn out drives. On offense, we have plenty of talent to take advantage of the Bears' weak defense, and there will be plenty of points be put on the board.
Still, while we have the talent to leave Waco with a win, it doesn't look promising. It should be a close game, with plenty of rushing yards for James Sims and plenty of passing yards for Jordan Webb. But their offense has too many playmakers and is headlined by too explosive of an athlete for our defense to contain them for 60 minutes, and I think the Bears will end up winning the game. And making a bowl.
I'm a sucker for Robert Griffin, what can I say.