While names like Robert Griffin, Andy Dalton, Kendall Wright and Jeremy Kerley get most of the headlines for Baylor and TCU, the game between the two squads Saturday in Ft. Worth will likely be decided by the guys up front. TCU has the presumed advantage in this area going into the game, but we delve a little deeper to analyze this key matchup.
Baylor offensive line vs. TCU defensive line
If there has been one deficiency for the Bears early in the season so far, it has been the offensive line's inability to create consistent holes for Baylor's running backs. In recent years, the Baylor offensive line has been blessed with NFL studs including starting offensive tackle for the St. Louis Rams Jason Smith, and Denver Broncos center J.D. Walton. Likewise, TCU's defensive line recently sent defensive end Jerry Hughes to the Indianapolis Colts.
Now the battle when the Baylor offense is on the field will be against future NFL hopefuls like senior left tackle Danny Watkins for Baylor and senior Wayne Daniels at defensive end for TCU. Daniels, a 6'2", 250lb all-MWC preseason selection has 3.5 sacks on the season already. Also returning for TCU are defensive tackles Kelly Griffin, a fellow senior and all-MWC preseason selection at 6'1", 310lbs, and Cory Grant, another senior checking in at 6'2", 305lbs. At the other end, TCU is mainly working two players, a 6'2", 260lb redshirt freshman Stansly Maponga, and 6'6", 272lb junior Braylon Broughton.
The Bears will counter with Watkins, 310lb Cameron Kaufhold at left guard, 315lb center Philip Blake, 315lb right guard Robert T. Griffin, and 295lb right tackle Ivory Wade. Watkins is the only senior on the offensive line, but he's not a typical experienced senior having only played football for 4 years.
Needless to say the Baylor offensive line is still learning to play together, and will have to take the next step in that endeavor in facing a veteran and talented defensive line from TCU. The good news for Robert Griffin is the Baylor offensive line has provided great pass protection so far this season. That combined with Griffin's elusiveness should be able to neutralize the pass rush from the TCU defensive line for most of the afternoon. However, in order for Baylor to be successful in the outcome of the game, their offensive line will need to knock TCU back and create some holes for Griffin and the Baylor running backs.
Baylor defensive line vs. TCU offensive line
"If you're good up front then you're going to have a chance to have a good defense or offense or whatever you've got. But I think it also falls into the fact that I think we are a pretty fast team defensively and those guys are playing really physical," Art Briles told reporters earlier in the week about his defensive line. The unit is anchored by senior defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who currently lines up at a trimmed down 340lbs. Taylor, whose story is well known in the Big 12, is hoping to continue the early season momentum where he has commanded double teams and come up with plenty of tackles for losses while he continues to try to prove himself.
Along with Taylor, Baylor will line up 6'4", 280lb junior at Tracy Robertson, and bring in a couple of upper classmen in Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Chris Buford to spell the starters. At the end, Gary Mason Jr., a developing sophomore, will likely be joined by redshirt freshman Terrance Lloyd to start the game. Junior Zac Scotton and redshirt freshman Tevin Elliott will get plenty of playing time too.
On the other side of the ball, the theme once again for TCU is talent and experience. Two now-senior starters were all-MWC a year ago, 6'6", 350lb left tackle Marcus Cannon, and one of the top centers in the nation 6'3", 305lb Jake Kirkpatrick. Cannon missed last game with an ankle injury, but is expected back this week. Also back from last year are senior guard Josh Vernon and junior guard Kyle Dooley. Every listed starter along the offensive line for TCU weighs over 300lbs, as does the vast majority of their 2 deep at that position.
Likely the key matchup of the game will be this one between Baylor's defensive line and TCU's offensive line. The questions remain - will Baylor be able to pressure Andy Dalton without bringing multiple extra defenders each play; will the defensive line be able to slow TCU's running game while it waits for help; will Baylor be able to physically matchup with TCU's experienced group?
The answers to those questions will likely be known within the first few series of the game, so Baylor fans should have a good idea early what kind of day is in store for them.
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