Baylor and Louisiana-Monroe face off this Friday evening, with Baylor coming off a lackluster win over an FCS power and the Warhawks coming off a hard fought loss on the road against Auburn. So, what should Bears fans expect to see from the ULM Warhawks? Let's take a look at what the Warhawks like to do and how Baylor matches up with them.
When the Bears are on defense:
Baylor's defense should be a good matchup with the ULM attack. The Warhawks like to do many of the same things that coach Briles does on offense. They will look to attack the defense horizontally, to get you spread out and then they will run the ball inside after the defense is worried about the sidelines.
The ULM quarterback, Kolton Browning, likes to keep the ball on the zone/reads a lot more than the Bears do under Nick Florence as well. They do quite a few mis-direction style runs, including faking reverses to receivers to get the defense flowing the opposite way. Baylor defenders have to stay true to their defensive assignments or ULM can break a big gain.
Baylor will have to play disciplined football and make tackles. There will be a lot of underneath routes and screens to the wide receivers. Baylor has to tackle and give them very little yards after the catch on those routes. Against Auburn, they opened up with every pass route being under7 yards, and just sitting in the open zones. I hope Baylor comes out showing more man defense, or at least tighter zones than we saw in the first half. Browning is accurate enough to hit receivers, especially those sitting down in the zone.
When the Bears are on offense:
The Bears will see a defense that looks a little familiar, as the Warhawks run a scheme that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett installed during the offseason at Baylor. While the bears run it as a change of pace, the Warhawks run the 3-3-5 defense almost exclusively. What does this mean for the Bears offense? Well, they will be facing a 3-man front for the majority of the game. This can help the running attack, as in the past, Baylor has always tried to take advantage of 3-man fronts, especially if the safeties and one of the two "hybrid" players play back off the line.
ULM likes to blitz, not as much as we saw last weekend, but they will certainly blitz more than SMU. Their defensive line is small, with no one in their 2-deep over 300 pounds, and their weakside ends only weighing 240 and 245 pounds. I expect the Bears to attack the center of the defense and get their guards and center to the second level where they can block the linebackers.
ULM has a rather young defense as well, with the only three senior starters all at the linebacker position. They have a red-shirt freshman lining up at the key hybrid position in Mitch Lane (player to watch in our pregame article on ULM). They also have very little height or size in the defensive backfield, with no starter being taller than 5-11.
The Bears will be facing a team that does a lot of the same things they do. When they look at ULM, they should see a team that runs quite a bit like they do, just with lesser talent, especially on offense. The Warhawks though are a good football team with some very good players. They do not have the depth that Baylor has though, and their guys are a little smaller on the lines. I think that will be the difference.
Baylor's rushing attack will start off very well in this game, as they take advantage of the 3-man front. I expect more zone reads and also a few draws and other delayed or misdirection runs, as the Warhawks will pursue the ball very hard.
The Baylor defense will give up yards, but force a few field goal attempts and get at least 2 turnovers. Special teams are a struggle for ULM, from everything I had seen, so the Bears should be able to get a bonus from the other third of the game.
Prediction: Bears win 38-28
I think Baylor will come out with the right attitude, and that is the key to the game. The Bears have been a very resilient team since last year and they are at a point where they just know how to win. They do not get down on themselves, and can put a bad play/drive/quarter/half behind them. I also think the adjustments Baylor makes after halftime will be where they win, just like the first two games.