Max Siker - BearsIllustrated

5-Things: Welcome back College Football!

Some thoughts on the Bears win over SMU to open the 2015 season, the other Big 12 teams and how they did this weekend

1.  Welcome back College football. We missed you.  Fall is not yet upon us, but the sounds of the gridiron bring us a weekend closer.  What a weekend of football it was.  Starting off with TCU and Oklahoma State winning tougher than expected openers on the road, to the Baylor Bears dominant win (albeit after a slow start) in Dallas, all the way through the Texas Longhorns humliating defeat at Notre Dame, it was a fun weekend for Baylor fans.  It was a pretty poor weekend overall for the Big 12.  They went 8-2 overall, but lost their biggest game of the weekend.  Texas' 38-3 loss was worse than most expected, as the Longhorn offense could do nothing right against a Top-15 Notre Dame squad.  Add to it the Kansas Jayhawks loss to an FCS team in South Dakota State, Texas Tech having a close than expected game in their own contest against an FCS team (59-45 win over Sam Houston State) and the Big 12 had lots of down performance. 

The best performance might have been by West Virginia, who showed off an experienced and talented defense in their 44-0 win over Georgia Southern, who had an explosive offense in 2014 and were expected to have another strong offense this year.  Iowa State also showed well in a 31-7 win over Northern Iowa at home.  The Cyclones had lost their last two games to FCS teams, and a third loss might have ended the coaching tenure of coach Paul Rhoads. The Oklahoma Sooners also had a nice home win over Akron, 41-3. New starting quarterback Baker Mayfield, led the Soonerswith 388 passing yards and 4 total touchdowns.  The Bears had good and bad aspects of their game, starting with just a 28-21 lead at halftime. However, a 28-0 run to close the game left no doubt that the Bears offense will once again be one of the best in the nation.  

2. Lets talk about the Baylor defense a little bit more.  There were a lot of "excuses" that could have, and maybe should, explained the lack of a crisp performance in the first half.  SMU had a new coach, a new offensive system, even head coah Art Briles said the week before the game that the depth chart they got from SMU had a bunch of surpises on it.  Add to those facts that opening on the road is always tougher, first half jitters, and the loss of two of the Bears best defenders for the game (and a 3rd lost in the 1st quarter), and that is a pretty comprehensive list.  Look at where the Bears suffered the most in the first half.  They failed to contain the quarterback on scrambles, as well as on designed runs to the outside, and they had some issues tackling at the second level.  Shawn Oakman is one of the best defensive ends against the run in the nation. There is no doubt he could have done a better job in that situation than KJ Smith.  Also, Orion Stewart is one of the best Bears tacklers from the safety position, and would have brought more of a physical presence than Taion Sells.  

Even with all that said, the Bears did not play well in the first quarter, and most of that was due to missed tackles and missed assignments.  Defensive Ends and blitzing players who were suppose to have containment assignment simply didn't do their job enough.  The pocket crashed too hard, and allowed SMU quarterback Matt Davis lanes to escape.  Add to that 22 missed tackles in the first half, and you have the recipe for a bad performance.  The Bears will welcome back Orion Stewart and Shawn Oakman against Lamar next weekend, and should have Taylor Young back in a week or two as well.  

3.  Offensively, the Bears were about as good as you could ask for during three of the quarters of play.  It was that pesky 2nd quarter that had Baylor fans biting their finger nails a bit.  There are two things that cause me apprehension about the Baylor offense this year; Seth Russell taking care of the ball and new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles learning curve.  We saw a bit of those of those items hurt the Bears in teh 2nd and 3rd quarters.  Russell will take a lot more chances with the ball than the Bears have seen the past two years with Seth Russell.  That is good and bad, and it is the Bears coaching staff's job to help Russell stay on the "good" side of the risk/reward line.  He threw high over the middle of the field too many times, and forced the ball into tight coverages.  Those issues hopefully will improve throughout the season, as the defenses get more capable of taking advantage of those mistakes. 

The other area is Kendal Briles and his play-calling. It is easy to get lost in the moment at times, and not see the big picture. For the Bears to pass the ball 14 times in the span of 16 plays is a good example of that.  They forgot the running game for most of the 2nd and 3rd quarters, and that is when the offense suffered.  We will see the Bears do that from time to time, and that is to be expected from a 1st time offensive coordinator.  Kendal Briles is smart and talented enough to improve on that, and I have no doubt that he will.  

4. The Bears will have their 2015 home opener next weekend against Lamar.  The Cardinals are coming off of a 66-3 win over NAIA Bscone College. We gave you a quick look at what to expect from Lamar earlier this offseason, but this is not a top-tier FCS program.  They were an 8-win team in 2014 though, even with a 73-3 loss to Texas A&M in their second game of the season.  The Cardinal defense held Bacone to just 3 first downs, and 82 total yards.  Lamar had over 500 yards of total offense and had 4 different players score rushing touchdowns. It was a solid effort and win for Lamar as they look to get their 2015 season off to a strong start.  

5.   Ranking the Big 12:

  1. Baylor - A 5 touchdown win over a hopefully very improved SMU squad, will do wonders for the Bears questionable non-conference schedule.
  2. TCU - If Minnesota is an 8-win team or better, this win will be very strong at the end of the season. Minnesota's offense will have to improve considerably for that to happen though.
  3. Oklahoma - Baker Mayfield made big plays with his arm, and didn't turn the ball over. If he can just take care of the ball and make good choices, the offense has a chance to be really good.
  4. West Virginia - The defense pitched a shutout against a very good Georgia Southern offense, forcing 5 turnovers. Great start to a team with a ton of talent and experience on that side of the ball. 
  5. Oklahoma State - A 24-13 win over Central Michigan wasn't the start that Coach Gundy wanted for his Cowboys. Trailing 13-10 in the 3rd quarte was definetly not what he wanted.  Expect a more focused Cowboys team next week.
  6. Kansas State - A ho-hum start to the 2015 season, the Wildcats did exactly what they needed to do.  Up 24-0 at halftime against an overmatched FCS team, Coach Snyder took it easy in the 2nd half. 
  7. Texas - Oh my.  That Longhorn offense was absolutely brutal to watch Saturday evening. The defense struggled, but you can see hope and flashes of great play on that side of the ball. The offense has no idea what they are doing.
  8. Texas Tech - Well, they can score.  They can score at will.  They might average over 45 points per game this year...and still not win 5 games.  
  9. Iowa State - The Cyclones won against an FCS team.  That is a positive step for the program, after two straight losses.  
  10. Kansas - The Wildcats lost to a good FCS team in South Dakota State.  But man, you can't even spike the ball right to kill the clock and at least give your kicker a chance?  Brutal.  

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