Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

5-Things to watch as Baylor prepares to face off against SMU

What should Baylor fans expect from SMU after they opened their season with a 34-21 victory over North Texas on the road?

1. Chad Morris, in his second year at the Hilltop, brings his SMU squad to Baylor for both teams second game of the 2016 season.  The Mustangs defeated North Texas 34-21 starting the season off 1-0. It also got SMU halfway to their win total from 2015, a 2-10 campaign that saw lose to an FCS team and beat just UNT and Tulane.  Morris was a longtime Texas High School spending 16 years in the state.  He was the coach at Stephenville High School but found his most success at Lake Travis High School where he won two state titles with Garrett Gilbert as his quarterback.  Morris coached at Tulsa and Clemson from 2010-2014 as the offensive coordinator.  

2. Senior starting quarterback Matt Davis left the opener with a leg injury.  He did not return as freshman Ben Hicks, from Waco Midway, finished the game for the Mustangs.  Davis is a dynamic rusher at the QB position, and has a cannon of an arm. His decision making and accuracy have been what has held him back.  Hicks, a redshirt freshman, was a highly rated 3-star recruit and opened his college career strongly.  On his 2nd pass attempt he threw an 88-yard touchdown to Courtland Sutton. Hicks is much more of a pocket passer, though he does have enough athletic ability to take advantage of room to run. But he is not Matt Davis, and is the backup for a reason.  Davis has starting experience, and showed potential in this offense at times in 2015.  If Davis is out, the Mustangs will be asking Ben Hicks to go to his home town and start his first game against a Top-25 team.  Not an easy task for any player.  

Presuming Hicks is the starter, the Mustangs might be getting someone that is a better fit for what Morris wants to do with the offense, at least on paper.  Hicks has the better arm and accuracy, though his comfort in the offense and decision making are still in need of improvement.  

3. The Mustangs also lost their top running back in Xavier Jones who had 115 yards and a touchdown in the opener.  Backup Ke'Mon Freeman subbed in late and played well to finish, but the lack of depth could be an issue during a mid-day game in Waco.  The temperature is expected to be hot with a 2:30 pm kickoff. It sounds like Jones had a hamstring issue he battled during camp, and this was just cramping related to that.  He is expected to be ready to go, but the Mustangs feel good about their depth at the position.  Jones is the main guy, and a huge difference maker for the offense.  However, both Freeman and Braeden West are capable. Freeman is a much more physical runner, and showed that off against UNT, running over and through several Eagles on his first career carry.  West was the primary backup in 2016, but struggled with ball security at times.  The SMU coaching staff has loved their depth at the position though, especially with Jones leading the way. 

The biggest weapon for the Mustangs is wide receiver Courtland Sutton, a 6-foot-4 physical specimen playing wide receiver.  The sophomore destroyed the Mean Green in the opener to the tune of 4 catches, 162 yards and 3 touchdowns.  He was simply impossible to stop and will be a huge concern for the Bears. He is also a player that the Bears should remember from last year, when he caught 2 touchdowns and had 82 receiving yards, mainly in the first half.  Sutton is 1A for the Ponies, but a second option could be developing in James Proche, a redshirt freshman from Desoto, TX.  Proche, who also will make an impact at returner for the Mustangs, caught 3 catches for 73 yards and brings tremendous speed to the Mustangs defense.  

4. Offense wasn't the big issue for the Mustangs in 2015, it was their defense. Simply put the Mustangs defense was simply awful in 2015.  Their goal is to improve that unit to maybe merely bad this year.  They are doing that with a wealth of freshmen and redshirt freshmen on the defensive front and in the secondary. Defensive End Michael Scott, corner Christian Davis, and safeties Mikial Onu, Rodney Clemsons, and Kevin Johnson were all freshmen that saw their first game action against North Texas.  The influx of talent was needed, and more freshmen are expected to make an impact on the depth chart as the season progresses. The Mustangs were 123rd in rushing defense, 122nd in red zone defense, 124th in passing efficiency defense, and 118th in total defense.  Simply put, it can't get much worse.  

5. This Mustangs team is better than 2015 version. They are better on all sides of the ball, with a rushing attack that should be quite intriguing.  If Ben Hicks can provide a passing threat, if Matt Davis can't come back from injury, this offense has the potential to be very good with Courtland Sutton and Xavier Jones leading the way.  The defense has nowhere to go but up, after a dismal 2015 campaign, but still might be bad.  The Ponies are deeper and more athletic on the lines, though it is young depth.  After a 2-10 season last year, the hope is incremental improvement and hopefully more wins in 2016.  

Bears Illustrated Top Stories