It’s the annual edition of the Big 12 Toilet Bowl, but the teams are a little bit different than usual. The Kansas Jayhawks are making their annual appearance, but the Baylor Bears have had the bottom drop out after the scandal from last year. To help get us ready for today’s game, I reached out to PocketChange over on Our Daily Bears, the SB Nation site dedicated to Baylor. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: Baylor obviously hasn't had the season that fans had hoped for. But while I'm sure most fans were expecting a decline this year, could anyone envision just how bad it was going to get?
ODB: I’m not sure any FBS team would ever expect to lose home, back to back games to both Liberty and UTSA, but nothing is promised in this cold world.
While Baylor doesn’t have any wins, many of the losses following the first two disappointments have been close, which is encouraging in some sense. If Baylor had won its first two games, the perception of the season would probably be different. That’s not how tings shook out, though. Injuries, transfers, and a missed recruiting cycle have really depleted the roster to an almost unimaginable degree.
RCT: How has Matt Rhule performed so far in what has no doubt been a terrible job situation?
ODB: I️ would count myself among the more positive crowd with regard to Rhule. Talk among NFL draft experts for a while has been that the previous regime, particularly on the offensive end, did little to teach scheme. Briles famously didn’t use a playbook. Rhule, in the other hand, is a much more traditional coach, and I️ imagine the level of detail and complexity is much higher now than most of the players have been used to. That makes it tough to assess exactly how well Rhule is doing in terms of on the field product. Some games have been close, some loses have been gutting and dispiriting. The strategy to change quarterbacks every drive against Texas was dumbfounding, but also a product of desperation. Rhule is looking for anything that might work, even if it seems doomed from the outside.
RCT: Which players have been a bright spot for this team?
ODB: Denzel Mims has been outstanding, especially before Chris Platt and Pooh Stricklin went down. Mims is a huge target with great speed, and he lead the nation in touchdowns about three weeks through the season. He’s a top caliber receiver who just needs a little more help around him.
On the other side, Blake Lynch has really turned things around as a corner. He had never played the position until 6 days before the season started, and now he has shown the ability to hang with big time Big XII receivers for stretches. He’s getting his arm up and disrupting the catch, and he’s figuring out how to shadow with each passing week. His growth has been really impressive.
RCT: What matchups do you think will be most important in this game?
ODB: For Baylor, it will be the front seven (and the safeties) against Kansas’ run game. Baylor has struggled containing the run, partly because they have trouble lining up on occasion. That problem is lessening, but the Bears have also had stretches of solid defense nullified by the one mistake that allows the touchdown. If Baylor can force Kansas to be one dimensional by stopping them on the ground, the Bears will have a much better chance of earning their first win of the season.
On the other side, Kansas will have to worry a lot about Mims. He can take it to the house on any play.
RCT: Prediction Time! Who avoids getting flushed in this year's version of the Big 12 Toilet Bowl?
ODB: Baylor has proven itself capable of losing to anyone, but I️ think after weeks of near misses Rhule’s team is ready to claim a victory. The Bears still have talent, even in this injury depleted state. It might not be a high scoring affair, though. Bears 20, Jayhawks 17.
RCT: BONUS - Megaman or Pac-Man?
ODB: Megaman. Arm-mounted laser cannons are hard to beat.
A big thanks for helping me out today. There is no return questions, but if you wanted more preview of the game, feel free to head on over to ODB.