Make no mistake; this game is about the Baylor Bears, not the Northwestern State Demons. The Bears will win this game handily, barring a miracle upset. If Bryce Petty plays or does not play, the Bears will win this game. So, in this week’s 5-things, we will focus less on the Demons and more on what the Bears need to get out of this game.
1. Will he play or won’t he play? That is the big question for the Bears. Of course, the “he” in this instance is senior quarterback and Heisman contender Bryce Petty. If healthy, this would be a game he would play the first half in, get about 4-5 touchdowns and then put on that dreaded headset for the 2nd half. With the back injury though, is it worth the risk? With this injury, there isn’t much risk of making it worse, more of pain management. Petty will get rest this week, just will it be the whole game or not is the question.
In a short-view outlook, if he can’t injure it anymore, then Petty should play a little, get some easy stats and then get the heck out of the game. In a long-term outlook, the Bears should do everything they can to assure Petty’s health for the conference schedule, when they will actually need him. This is a “safe” opponent on paper, but do you remember the team the Bears were playing when the lost Robert Griffin III to a busted knee? That is right, it was Northwestern State.
2. It has already been reported that the Bears will be without Antwan Goodley and Devin Chafin against Northwestern State. It makes sense to have Petty sit out as well, Heisman stat-padding can take a slight hit in my book. Besides, more reps for Seth Russell and Chris Johnson is not exactly the worst thing in the world. This is a game to find some rhythm and tempo that was lacking against SMU. The offensive line should be able to dominate a weaker opponent and get more reps together. The defense still won’t be tested by a team that can truly be a danger to them, or show them a team that can run and pass, not do just one of those things like SMU. My biggest concern on the defensive side of the ball is our ability to stop a well-rounded offense, something we did not do at all against the two most balanced offenses we faced in 2013; Oklahoma State and Central Florida.
3. This will be the last home game for way too long of a stretch. The Bears will go on the road to play Buffalo, enjoy a bye week, and then head out to back-to-back Big 12 road games against Iowa State and Texas. The Bears next home game is October 11th, over a month after Northwestern State. We have talked about the non-conference schedule quite a bit on the site, and the silliness of taking a road trip to Buffalo, so I won’t rehash it here. However, get your fill of McLane Stadium this weekend, as you won’t see it packed with green and gold for another month. Hope the withdrawals don’t harm anyone.
4. Alright, let’s talk about the Demons. They are 0-1 on the year, with a close 27-34 loss against Missouri State in week 1. They were 6-6 last year with losses to FBS teams Cincinnati (66-9) and UAB (52-28) as two of those losses. The Demons actually led Missouri State 27-14 in the fourth quarter, but 20 points in that final quarter propelled the Bears win over NW State. They struggled to stop the MSU running attack, allowing 223 yards on 47 carries. The Demons had the 4th most preseason all-conference picks for the Southland Conference with 8 (3 1st team defense, 2 2nd team offense, 3 2nd team defense) and were picked to finish 5th in the Southland by both the coaches and the Sports Information Directors.
5. The Demons are led by senior quarterback Zach Adkins, who is in his 2nd year as a starter. He set several offensive records for the Demons in his first year starting. His main target is Ed Eagan, a preseason all-conference selection who led them in receptions and receiving yards in the game against Missouri State (9 catches for 107 yards with 1 touchdown). This is a spread offense that is more pass heavy than run. They go 4-wide receivers quite a bit, but not with much size as none are over 6-feet tall. They rotate RBs quite a bit, and their best one in the opener is listed as 3rd string.
Defensively, they play a standard 4-3 defense, but will show multiple looks. The strength is in their secondary, with All-Conference picks Imoan Claiborne and Fred Thomas leading the way at the corner back position. They have some size at the nose tackle position (Senior Deon Simon is 6-4, 322 lbs), but are really undersized outside of that. All three of their linebackers weigh less than 221 pounds. Defense is their strength, but they are still a middle of the road FCS team.