Sometimes, a soft schedule can be a good thing. After a 45-0 win against Northwestern STATE in the opener, the Bears need a bit of a reprieve. Not that the difficulty in besting the Mustangs was difficult, but it was costly in terms of injuries. Star receiver Antwan Goodley played just a few series before leaving, while Devin Chafin was limited to a handful of carries as well. Both have already been declared out for this week’s game.
Senior wide receiver and special teams ace Levi Norwood had surgery on his wrist that will sideline him for at least 3 weeks as well, putting four of the top five wide receivers in street clothes for at least this week. The big news though is Bryce Petty, and whether his broken back bones (needless as they are) will cause him to sit this one out and give the reins to backup Seth Russell. The Bears will more than likely win this game, even with the 2nd team offensive skill position players out there. The key will be the management of the short term win versus the long-term goal of winning the Big 12 and even more.
|Date||Sat., Sept. 6 | 6:30 p.m. CT|
|Location||Waco, Texas | McLane Stadium (45,150)|
|Radio||ESPN Central Texas | Sirius 108 | XM 195|
|Online Audio||Listen Online|
|Gameday Info||Gameday Central|
|Game Notes||Baylor Notes |Northwestern State Notes|
-Baylor Receivers versus Northwestern State Secondary
The strength of the Demons defense is their secondary. For the second week in a row, this is a key for the Bears. Last week, it was could the Mustangs handle the Bears top-tier talent. This week, it is whether the new starters can continue to develop and grow. KD Cannon and Davion Hall were excellent at times against SMU. They will both be starters against NSU and will have larger roles than most expected. Lynx Hawthorne and Kaleb Moore will probably get on the field more. Could the redshirts be taken off of Chris Platt and Ishmael Zamora as well, to give the Bears more depth at the position? There are a ton of questions here.
-Baylor Linebackers versus Northwestern State Running Backs
The Baylor linebackers, and really their secondary as well, were tested very little against SMU. While the Demons might not have the talent or the offensive pedigree as June Jones and his merry band of Mustangs, they are a more balanced team. They have a quarterback who is at least capable of completing a pass, and even some running backs on the roster that haven’t been transitioned from linebacker this spring. Those are a step in the right direction. The Baylor linebackers will have to watch out more for run plays and play fakes against NWSU, instead of just looking for pass plays or simple screens like they saw last weekend.
The Demons will have quite a few short passes though, especially underneath the coverage. That will make for a busy day for Bryce Hager and company. Their ability to work their zone and get to the flats quickly will be a key to watch out for.
Well, there isn’t much out there on Northwestern State, so we won’t do a full breakdown here. The Bears moved up in most of the rankings. They are now 6th in the Massey Poll (up from 9th), 8th in the Sagarin Rankings (up from 9th), 8th in the RealTimeRPI (Up from 14th), and 12th according to TeamRankings’ Power Poll (up from 13th).
On Football Outsiders, the Bears are 6th in the S&P+, 19th in FEI, 7th in General Efficiency and 11th in F/+. Those rankings are still taking a lot of their weight from preseason expectations though, especially FEI where the Bears started out as 20th. Overall, the Bears area Top-10 team according to most rankings and should expect to see a continued rise as other Top-10 teams falls.
Keys to the Game
1. Get Out Healthy (or Healthier)
Look, the Bears will more than likely win this game, and win it easily. The goal here simply needs to be health. They cannot continue to get banged up and have little injuries here and there. While the injury list is long (especially at WR where I could be on the depth chart soon), none of the injuries should hold guys out past a game or 2 in Big 12 play. That is the key. Hopefully, the Bears can withstand this minor bump in the health road, and get through it all before conference play kicks into gear.
2. Get the Running Game Going
The Baylor running attack against SMU was okay, but okay is not what we have come to expect from the Bears the past few years, especially on offense. The lack of push from the offensive line was something that Bear fans were not expecting, though the SMU defensive line is solid, deep and experienced. They ran for 261 yards, but only 5.2 yards per rush that was buoyed by their two backup quarterbacks rushing for 65 yards for an 8.125 yards per rush average. The running backs averaged just 4.46 yards per rush. The only runner to average more than 5 yards was Shock Linwood (16 carries for 89 yards). The Bears struggled at times at the point of attack, especially the interior line, with two new starters and returning guards Desmine Hilliard.
3. Be Smart with it
I hate to belabor the point, but seriously, this game is about the Bears health more than anything. The biggest key of that health is their senior quarterback. He says he is going to play. Art Briles says he won’t play unless he is 100%. Of course, Petty says he WILL BE 100%. ''I'm going to be smart with it, but at the same time, you take a risk every time you get on the field,'' he said. ''So it's going to be no different, whether I'm in a little pain or not. ... You can't do anything worse to it. If it's OK, if it's bearable, I can deal with it.''
I am going to be “smart” with it. The smartest thing to do is rest up, enjoy a nice massage during the game and get ready for Buffalo at the earliest. That is the smart thing to do. The Bears are sitting out Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman this game, and some believe that if this was a bigger game, both could be out there (more of the thought on Goodley than Coleman). We will see how the smart the Bears want to play this thing. Hopefully, if Petty plays, it is for one glorious half of long touchdowns plays and easy drives with a nice break after halftime.
Massey Ratings – Bears win 54-10
TeamRankings.com and RealTime RPI do not have predictions for FCS games
Staff Predictions COMING SOON! (but will be a lot more Bears win!!!)