Is anyone still complaining about the Bears' weak non-conference schedule anymore? I didn't think so. The Bears come into their matchup with Northwestern State in beautiful McLane Stadium with a lot injuries to key offensive positions.
Baylor will be without their top 4 returning WRs from last year in Antwan Goodley (quad), Levi Norwood (Wrist), Clay Fuller (Clavicle), and Corey Coleman (hamstring). Also, the Bears might be without starting QB and Heisman hopeful Bryce Petty (back), who Art Briles has said will be a game time decision, and will be without backup RB Devin Chafin (Ankle). Luckily for the Bears, none of these injuries are too serious and all should be back for the beginning of conference play.
Presuming that Bryce Petty is not going to play today, that means that Sophomore Seth Russell will get his first collegiate start. Seth Russell might be the most athletic person on the team; at 6'3" 215 lbs he has been timed at a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, has a 41.6 vertical jump, and has a broad jump of 10-feet, 4-inches. While he is physically gifted, Russell has, at times, been careless with the ball when playing. Look for the Bears to run the read option a lot and to throw the screen passes that were so common RGIII's sophomore year with Russell leading the offense.
With the aforementioned WRs out, look for Jay Lee, Davion Hall, and KD Cannon to get plenty targets. There is also the possibility that redshirts might be burned on Chris Platt and Ishmael Zamora. The coaches, however, would most likely like not avoid that and rely on more veteran players like Quan Jones, Lynx Hawthorn, and Kaleb Moore to step up. The Demons' secondary is their defensive strength, so this will be a key battle in the game. With the injury to Devin Chafin look for redshirt Freshman Johnny Jefferson to get more reps at RB and for walk-on, and fan-favorite, Silas Nacita to get extended action in order to preserve the redshirt of Terence Williams.
The good news is our defense is completely healthy, and that should scare the Demons. Coming off one of their most dominating games ever, where they allowed only 67 yards of total offense against SMU, the Baylor Gang Green defense will look to continue their dominance against the more balanced offense of Northwestern. The Demons be a bigger test for the Bears young secondary, but from what was seen in last week's game at times, the secondary should have no problem.
While injuries are never good, the Bears depth at skill positions make them manageable for this week vs an FCS opponent in Northwestern State. While no team should ever be overlooked, despite all the injuries, the Bears Offense should still be pretty good, and the Bears defense should be able to cover any offensive miscues there might be.