Kansas hits the road to play against the current conference leader in Waco this Saturday, and given all the controversy surrounding the school, it’s easy to miss out on any information about the football team itself. To help correct that, I reached out to Kendall Kaut over at Our Daily Bears, the SB Nation site covering the Baylor Bears, who was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: Obviously Baylor has had a lot of offseason and off-the-field things to deal with this year. Given all the pressing issues that pulled lots of attention away from football, what sort of expectations did this team have coming into the year?
ODB: My guess before the season was that we would end up 9-3. The team is still incredibly talented and even with the exodus of many in the 2016 recruiting class, few of those guys were expected to contribute immediately. I would have gone with 11-1 if it were purely a talent standpoint, but at some point, the lack of depth along the defensive line, and the off field distractions will probably combine to cause a late season slide.
RCT: The conference sure is down this year. While it's not that unusual for a program or two to have a down year, it seems that pretty much every team in the conference is struggling in some fashion. Any idea what's going on?
ODB: The Big 12 and the PAC 12 are fairly bad. The PAC 12 is also terrible but because Washington beat Stanford before people realized Stanford is mediocre, the Huskies are carrying that conference's reputation.
My guess is that the Big 12 is weaker for a few reasons. First, Oklahoma's loss of Sterling Shepherd was a bigger deal than many, myself included, realized. If Oklahoma beat Houston, the Big 12's reputation would look a lot better.
Second, just about everyone else in the conference has a fatal flaw. Texas, Texas Tech, and TCU have bad to awful defenses depending on the week. Oklahoma State can't run the ball, and Kansas State doesn't have much of a quarterback.
RCT: This Baylor team is somewhat familiar, but yet decidedly different. How has Jim Grobe made his mark on this team and program in the short time he has been there? Do you see any chance that he stays more than just 1 year?
ODB: The team looks virtually the same on the field. The team now runs a 3-4 on most downs, which is new, but was a planned change before Grobe took over. The team has gone for it several times on fourth down, which is nothing new. Against SMU, the Bears were struggling and the team kept going. Special teams were doing a little better than they have in the past, but the Bears had an ill fated fumble on a punt return against Oklahoma State inside their own five.
I would be shocked if Grobe stayed on as head coach. If he goes 11-1 or 12-0, then maybe. But still, I'd be shocked. Mack Rhoades, the new athletic director, seems to want someone who will continue to have us run a similar style of offense. Grobe could remain in an administrative role, which many people would support.
RCT: Who are the playmakers that we can expect to hear a lot from on Saturday for Baylor? Are there any lesser-known guys that you expect to break out in a big way?
ODB: K.D. Cannon is Baylor's best receiver and has been explosive the last several years. Shock Linwood returns at running back and has a style of play very similar to Ohio's running back.
Blake Lynch is a red shirt freshman and had a nice game against Iowa State. He could have a big game on Saturday, especially if Clint Bowen runs a more aggressive defense and Lynch gets one on one coverage.
RCT: Prediction time! Baylor is at home for Homecoming, and never seems to have problems with Kansas like TCU does. Since it isn't likely that Kansas actually pulls off an upset (no matter how improved that defense looks), what do you think the longest scoring play is going to be?
ODB: I'll say 65 yards. I could see K.U. hitting a big play in the slot too, but I doubt either team hits a shot longer than that.
RCT: BONUS - Which would you prefer to have, a personal chef or personal assistant?
ODB: Personal assistant. I eat out every meal and unless the chef can make Raising Cane's, team personal assistant.
A special thanks to Kendall for taking some time to help us out today. Don’t forget to check out the questions I answered over on ODB.