We all know it's coming: the beat down from one of the top teams in the conference. This is likely the first taste of multiple such occurrences, so to help get us ready I reached out to Prashanth Francis over at Our Daily Bears, the SB Nation site that covers the Baylor Bears. He found a few minutes to answer some questions for us.
RCT: The top of the Big 12 seems stacked as usual, with TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor all still undefeated. An ESPN personality thinks that Baylor is the best team in the country. Our own power rankings puts Baylor at third in the conference. Where would you put the Bears right now in the heirarchy of both the conference and the nation?
ODB: It's been a fun week for Baylor fans (and for ODB contributors looking for content). Despite not having the Utah@Oregon type performance against Texas Tech that I thought would be required to move up in the polls, and despite only playing one Power 5 team so far this year, and despite being routinely mocked for playing such a weak non-conference, the Baylor Bears are getting multiple votes for being the #1 team in the country. Strange times, indeed.
I don't think there's any one dominant team in CFB this year, though I think that several teams have the potential to evolve into dominant teams by the end of the year. As such, I think OU, TCU and Baylor all deserve to be considered with the 8-12 contenders for the championship. I view Baylor and OU and similarly talented and a notch above TCU right now, largely due to TCU's injuries. OU's performance against Tulsa, where ex-Baylor OC Philip Montgomery now runs the show, gives me some measure of confidence that OU hasn't figured out how to stop the 'Smashmouth Spread' that Baylor continues to run.
tl;dr: 1. BU, 2. OU, 3. TCU, with the expectation that Patterson will coach up his defenders by the end of the year to get TCU back in the mix.
RCT: As I'm sure you've heard ad nauseum this week, Seth Russell originally committed to Kansas, but switched after Turner Gill was fired in 2011. Kansas is currently on it's 4th string quarterback. Can you imagine what this Kansas offense might look like if Russell had been starting here instead of in Waco? And with Russell's performance this year, how much of a chance do you give him in the Heisman race?
ODB: The fact that Seth Russell and Nick Florence are able to put up such stellar seasons despite not having the raw ability of more highly rated recruits speaks the QB development process at Briles Academy and the development process for the offense as a whole. I don't think Bryce Petty would have put up his Baylor numbers at Tennessee (his original commitment), nor do I think Seth Russell would have put up these types of performances at Kansas. As UT is amply demonstrating, it's about more than recruiting talent.
I think that the QB for the program that wins the Big 12 will end up in NYC come December, but it's hard to guess which at this point. My guess is that Boykins splits our region's vote with someone like Russell and the award ends up going to Leonard Fournette a Deshaun Watson type (my preseason prediction).
RCT: When you think Baylor Bears football, you think high-flying offense. Who are the key playmakers on defense, and are there weaknesses that Kansas can try to exploit this weekend?
ODB: DE Shawn Oakman is the name/meme that gets the most attention and while his ceiling is still the highest, I think most close Baylor observers would tell you that DT Andrew Billings has been the best defender over the past 1+ years. Adding in a healthy LB Taylor "Rocket" Young to work behind those two makes creates a triangle of strength on the defense.
Baylor's weakness is (still) in the secondary, where they are less green than last year, but still not up to the level of talent seen at every other level of this Baylor team. S Chance Waz recently replaced the more experienced S Terrell Burt, and though there has been some improvement, I still think attacking the pairing of Waz and CB2 Ryan Reid is the best bet. Also, Baylor clearly misses the sure handed tackling of MLB Bryce Hager; replacement Grant Campbell may yet get to that level, but he's definitely not there yet.
RCT: Baylor originally opened up as 38-point favorites, and the line has been climbing ever since, with it now up to 44 points. If Kansas were to somehow pull off the monumental upset, paint me a picture of how that would happen. What would have to go wrong for the Bears?
ODB: It's hard for me to imagine, but I'd have to guess some combination of injuries to Baylor, penalties that are all too common for Baylor, and (poorly timed) turnovers. Baylor has the advantage of having a bit of a plug and play component to the offense, but the QB2 is true freshman (and uber recruit) Jarrett Stidham. His first college throw was a 42 yard TD.
RCT: What's your prediction for Saturday? Obviously we are all expecting a big win by Baylor, so in addition to the score, tell me who has the biggest highlight of the game, and which Baylor scrub looks like a 1st team all Big 12 player after this game?
ODB: The big question for Baylor fans is when will this defense show the above average to elite performance for 4 quarters that will be necessary to get into and succeed in the CFB playoffs. My guess is that KU is the type of offense that can't take advantage of Baylor's weaknesses and the Bears win 56-14. I predict you'll see deep passes early and then a fade into a rushing dominant attack. Seth Russell plays 2.5 quarters and then Jarrett Stidham comes in and wows for the last 1.5 quarters.
RCT: BONUS - We get the feeling that Kansas Football fans are in for a rough season. To do our part to help, we are taking up collections. What alcoholic beverage would you contribute to the storehouse to help our fans drown their sorrows after a loss?
ODB: To give a bit of local flavor, I present to you Balcones Whiskey, a Waco distillery making award winning bourbon-style whiskey.
A special thanks to Prashanth for helping us out. For any further coverage of the game this weekend from the Baylor perspective, head on over to Our Daily Bears.