The Baylor Bears begin their 2016 campaign at home against FCS team Northwestern State Friday evening at McLane Stadium. With a long offseason, in more ways than the usual, wrapping up, the Bears welcome a Demons team that was 4-7 in 2015. With third year head coach Jay Thomas leading the way, the Demons will look to use a multi-look offense designed to offer spread and traditional options to the team.
Head Coach Jay Thomas explained, "We’re running six or seven schemes built into one, and whatever gives us the best opportunity to win is what we want to have in place in our ditty bag, pulling it out when we need it. That makes it hard on our quarterbacks, and it takes them time to get command, and these guys can handle that."
While the Demons were primarily a running team last year, Thomas wants them to be able to pass more in 2016, with new quarterback Brooks Haack, formerly of Louisiana Lafayette, making his first start as a Demon. They ran the ball almost 64% of their plays in 2015, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Demons will look similar to Baylor, using a 3-4 defense mixed in with a 4-man look. "s. We’ll be balanced, mixing a 3-4 package with four down linemen, so we’ll have answers to the challenges offenses provide. Everybody’s pretty multiple defensively nowadays. You have to be flexible. We will be."
The Demons struggled terribly against running attacks in 2015, allowing 6.4 yards per rush and a staggering 41 touchdowns. With improvement expected across the roster with the addition of 11 transfers to the team, Baylor coach Jim Grobe doesn't want his Bears overlooking the Demons.
"The thing I've learned in 40 years of coaching is you gotta take everybody seriously and respect every opponent. We'll find out pretty early how much they've improved with this influx of new talent."
23/21 BAYLOR (0-0) vs. Northwestern State (0-0)
|Date - Sept. 2, 2015 | 6:30 p.m. CT|
|Location - Waco, Texas | McLane Stadium (45,140)|
|TV - FSN (Mark Followill - Play by Play, Ben Leber - analyst, Brian Baldinger - analyst, Lesely McCaslin - sideline)|
| Listen | Gametracker | Notes | Tickets
- Baylor won at least 10 games for a 3rd-straight season, earned a program-high ranking of No. 2 and was 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl champions last season.
- Baylor returns 41 lettermen and 11 starters (4 o; 5 d; 2 st) from the 2015 squad.
- Baylor is 10-2 in the $266 million McLane Stadium, with an average margin of victory of + 28.6 points.
- Baylor is averaging 51.4 points per game and 629.8 yards per game at the 2-year-old riverfront stadium.
- Baylor has the nation's best home record since 2011 at 29-3.
- Baylor has the third-most wins (57) in FBS since 2010, only Alabama (62) and Florida State (58) have more.
Quick Look at Northwestern State
Louisiana Population: 17,865
Athletic Affiliation: NCAA Division I, Football Championship Subdivision
Conference: Southland Conference
Colors: Purple & White, orange trim
Mascot: Victory “Vic” The Demon
First Year of Southland Football: 1987
All-Time Record, Years: 523-448-22, 108
2015 Overall Record: 4-7
2015 Southland Record, Place: 4-5, T-5th
Southland Conference Championship, Last: 4, 2004
NCAA Division I Playoff Appearance: 6, 2004
Offensive Scheme: Multiple
Defensive Scheme: Multiple
Starters Returning/Lost: 14/14 Letterwinners
The Demons finished the 2015 season at 4-7, but finished the season strong by winning four of their last six games. It was a team that improved throughout the year, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They will have a new starting quarterback in graduate transfer Brooks Haack, though backup Joel Blumenthal is expected to play against Baylor as well.
What Happened Last Time
This is the fifth meeting between the two teams, with Baylor winning all four previous meeting. Baylor defeated the Demons 70-6 in 2014, the second ever game at McLane Stadium. With Bryce Petty injured, Seth Russell made his first career start and accounted for five scores and 438 passing yards in just the first half. Baylor ran out to a 49-3 halftime lead and never looked back. True Freshman receiver KD Cannon caught 3 touchdowns and 223 receiving yards in the win.
RealTimeRPI - Baylor wins 45-3
Massey - Baylor wins 58-14
Tim Watkins, BearsIllustrated.com - Baylor wins 63-10
Simply put, the Bears will be too much for the Demons. This is the definition of cupcake. The Demons have been a below average FCS team the past few years, at best, and are expected to continue that into 2016. Baylor will get out to a big lead early, similar to their 2014 victory that saw key backups get critical playing time, including Seth Russell. The now senior will do less with his arm throwing the ball, as the Bears focus on the ground attack and get 5 rushing touchdowns in the first half, led by Terence Williams with 3.
Statistically, this will be the worst offense the Bears see all year. It will be fascinating to see how the defensive front works against an over matched unit. If the Baylor defense struggles against the run and generates little pass rush, this could be a sign of the struggles ahead for a promising defense. I don't expect that to happen though. More than 20 points would be shocking, and a major disappointment.
Kevin Barrera, BearsIllustrated.com - Baylor wins 52-13
This game is more about keeping everyone healthy and getting Zach Smith some reps, than the Demons keeping this game close. The Bears should be able to get out to a big lead and then work on some reps for the younger guys. The Demons shouldn't move the ball too much against a Bears defense that should be one of the best in Coach Bennetts tenure as DC. The offensive line will be moved around, as Coach Randy Clements finds a starting 5 that clicks and the Bears rushing attack will be on full display. Bears win big.