Look Out: It's Not the Same Old Baylor

NORMAN, Okla. – In previous years, the most common phrase uttered before most Big 12 teams played the Baylor Bears probably would have been, "C'mon, it's just Baylor." But that mindset is far from the reality of what kind of team the Bears are in 2010.

The biggest difference in why Baylor (7-4, 4-3 Big 12), who is bowl eligible for the first time since 1995, is a different team this year is because of its offense.

The Bears boast the second-best total offense, the third-best rushing offense and the fifth-best scoring and passing offense in the Big 12.

"They're doing a great job offensively," said defensive line coach Bobby Jack Wright. "[They're] doing a great job of moving the football, scoring points and putting up big numbers in the running game and the passing game. That's a two-headed snake that's hard to deal with when you can be as balanced and prolific at both sides of it as they have been."

And there's one big reason why Baylor's offense has drastically improved in the past year, and his name is Robert Griffin III. He has accumulated 3,579 total yards – 3,071 passing and 508 rushing – and 28 touchdowns – 20 through the air and eight on the ground.

"Yeah, really athletic guy; a guy that their entire offense goes through" Wright said. "He's the spark plug of it. He is a scramble-to-throw guy, and he's tried to create and he'll try to hit you with the big play. But if it totally breaks down and nothing's available, then, yeah, he'll pull it and run."

Griffin missed most of the 2009 season because of an ACL tear, but he has faced the Sooners before. He gained just 75 yards through the air, but he rushed for 102 yards on 21 attempts back in that 2008 game.

But as the stats and Griffin's play has proven, he has improved over the past two years, with the main factor being the maturity and experience he has gained.

"He's more mature, he knows that offense better," said junior linebacker Travis Lewis. "I don't think he just sat around last year. I think he was in that quarterback room learning the system better. He's not just a freshman being thrown out there.

"He's a veteran now."

But Griffin is not the only one making plays on offense as the Bears have improved at their skill position.

Senior running back Jay Finley is having a solid year at running back. He has surpassed the 1,000 yard rushing mark (1,073), is averaging almost 100 yards per game (97.5) and has double-digit rushing touchdowns (11).

Also, Baylor has five receivers who have each caught at least 30 passes and three who have more than 450 receiving yards.

"Everyone talks about their quarterback, Robert Griffin, who's an excellent player and everything begins with him, but they have a lot of good athletes on each side of the ball playing really disciplined in the way they play," said head coach Bob Stoops, who is looking to keep the Sooners undefeated in Waco. "You look at them, they're at the top of the league in mostly every offensive category."

While the players around Griffin are having solid years, the way to beat this new, high-powered offense is by containing Griffin, said senior defensive end Jeremy Beal.

"You have to cut the head off the snake," Beal said. "He's the leader of the offense and you've got to get pressure on him."

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