Checking Out the Baylor Bears

AllCyclones.com takes a more in-depth look at Baylor with the help of Kevin Barrera from BearsIllustrated.com, who provides all the details you need to know leading up to Saturday night's matchup

Stopping Baylor's offense doesn't really seem like an option for opposing teams. With that said, what is a key to possibly slowing it down so the Iowa State offense can attempt to match it?

The Baylor offense is very unique in the way that they attack opposing defenses. The offense is primarily a zone-read play-action offense. This is important because a lot of the big plays, on offense, are generally made off of play-action, which has been set up by the run. In order to try and slow down the Baylor offense, the defense will need to key on stopping the run, and getting pressure on Bryce Petty in order to force him to make quick decisions. In the previous 3 games, teams tried to load the box with 7-8 guys, but failed to get any pressure on Petty, resulting in several long passes for a TD. This is the Big 12, however, so it will be interesting to see if Iowa State can pressure Bryce Petty and slow down the run at the same time.

What makes the Baylor offensive scheme so unique? Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said it isn't like other spread offenses and the Bears make adjustments after the snap, which makes it extremely difficult to adjust.

I think the main unique point about this offense, is the way they spread you out. If you will notice on each play, the WR’s are spread out sideline to sideline. This is very important, because it forces the DB’s and LB’s to spread out further than they’d like, which in turn hurts them in run defense and during their blitz plays.

Another thing that is unique, is the tempo which Baylor plays with. As Baylor picks up its tempo, it forces the defense into a base package. This is where you will see the Bears get to the line quickly, and then break to allow the coaches to survey the defensive setup. Once they have viewed the field, you will see Petty receiving an additional play call from the sidelines. It’s difficult, mostly because you don’t allow the defense to substitute or change their defensive set.

All of the talk when it comes to Baylor is about the offense, but the defense is ranked with the top teams in the nation, too. How does the defense stack up and what is one area it can be attacked?

Coach Briles said at the beginning of the year, that he feels the Baylor DL is the top DL in the country. That may be stretching it a little, but they have been excellent in these first three games. Coach Phil Bennett has been able to dial up several defensive packages, but they have primarily been able to disrupt the offense in a 3-4 set. This has been something that the Baylor defense hasn’t been able to do in previous years. With the emergence of Shawn Oakman, Jamal Palmer, Andrew Billings, Beau Blackshear, Javonte Magee and Byron Bonds (there are others, but these six are part a main rotation), the Baylor defense has been able to get a nice pass rush with three down lineman. This is important, as it allows the LB’s to play a little more in space and attack the ball carrier, or the QB.

When talking about how to attack this defense, I would say in the secondary. While the DB’s have some games under their belts, they are still a young unit, and have not been tested much in non-conference. Getting into Big 12 play, it will be even more important for Baylor to get a good pass rush with their front seven, so that the DB’s are having to cover long on an island. It will be interesting to see how Iowa State tries to attack this early.

Who is an under-the-radar player on offense that Cyclones fans should key in on? Who stands out on defense?

On offense, I think it’s difficult to key in on someone who has been under-the-radar. Although Jay Lee has been great in the non-conference, I think he is one that will need to be watched in Big 12 play. With the return of Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman, and Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller next week, the Bears offense will welcome back their top four WR from a year ago. And with Big 12 defenses keying on Goodley and Coleman, it will be important for Lee to continue his stellar season to take some pressure off of those two guys. He is an electric WR and one that Cyclones fans will appreciate watching.

On defense, my first inclination is to say Shawn Oakman, but I won’t. He is an absolute beast in his own right, but one player that has also made a name for himself is Aiavion Edwards. The redshirt sophomore out of Stephenville (TX) HS, has hit the ground running. He is a heady, very athletic LB that just has a great nose for the ball. He has the speed to make plays in coverage, but can run down hill and lay the wood. He had the tough task of replacing All-Big 12 LB Eddie Lackey, and has done a great job.

Nearly every week, it seems, Art Briles gets asked about the schedule. Is there really any worry about how Baylor's non-conference schedule affects its postseason hopes, and will there be any early struggles as Big 12 play begins?

Quite honestly, I think the argument is overplayed. Briles is banking on the Bears going undefeated in conference play, which is certainly a good possibility. Win out in non-conference and conference play, and you are in the CFB playoff. The other thing is, if you take a look at the Power 5 conferences, a majority of those teams are playing similar non-conference schedules, except they are able to get a conference game in early, which overshadows a weak non-conference schedule (see Texas A&M). I do believe, however, that if the Bears do lose a game and miss out on the playoff because of it, that you will see a change in the way Baylor schedules the non-conference. As long as they go undefeated in conference play, the non-conference will have barring on whether they make the playoff or not.

As for Big 12 play, I don’t see the Bears struggling at all at the beginning. Briles’ Baylor teams always improve as the season progresses, and this year will be no different. Briles does a good job of keeping this team level-headed and keyed in on their end of the year goals. If Baylor struggles, it is generally because they are hurting themselves. If they can limit that, then they will be right in the thick of it with Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship.


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