5 Questions: Baylor

No. 9 TCU travels to Waco this Saturday to face No. 5 Baylor in a battle of top 10 programs. What should Frog fans look for from the Bears? We visited with BearsIllustrated.com Recruiting Analyst Kevin Barrera to get those answers.

1. Baylor's defense has shown vast improvements this season, what have been the biggest reasons for the early success?

I think the biggest reason for improvement has been the play of the defensive line. Oakman, Billings, Palmer, Blackshear, Magee, etc. have really allowed Coach Phil Bennett to scheme differently this year. The DL has been able to get a push with 4 guys, which has allowed the LB’s to concentrate more on stopping the run or covering in space. The LB’s are very athletic, so being able to use their abilities in other ways besides helping with the pass rush has been big time.

2. The defense has been hit with a couple of injuries recently with Jamal Palmer and the questionable status on Aaivion Edwards; how big a loss are these two and who fills in for them?

Losing Jamal Palmer is a big loss, but I think the possibility of Aaivion could be bigger. With Jamal gone for the season, after a torn ACL, you will see Coach Bennett rely on Javonte Magee and Brian Nance to fill Palmer’s void. Magee is a hybrid DE/DL. He has great size and great speed on the edge, and will help to alleviate the loss of Palmer. Nance is still a little bit of an unknown, but he is a former 4* player that has grown in to the DE position. I think height and weight are a little bit of a concern for him, but he certainly has the speed to reek havoc on the RT.

With Edwards, it has not been announced whether or not he will miss the game, but he is certainly questionable and will be a game time decision. With Edwards, you have someone that is very athletic (faster than Eddie Lackey) and is very smart. Being a former RB, he has the knack for making plays and he reads his keys very well. For Edwards, you will see Collin Brence, a walk-on that has played a ton early, and Taylor Young. Young is an intriguing player. He is kind of in the mold of a Zach Thomas. Short, but built like an ox and athletic. He made some key plays on Saturday, against Texas, and helped to end some key offensive drives. There will be somewhat of a drop off, but not a big one.

3. Bryce Petty had his toughest game of his Baylor career last week against Texas; was it more of what the Longhorns showed on defense or did he just have an off-day. Or, was it just a combination of both?

You know, I think most Baylor fans are still scratching their heads about the game that Bryce had. It was certainly uncharacteristic of him. If you think about it, Bryce has really only played 2 ½ games in which he was 100% healthy. He played the SMU game hurt, didn’t play against Northwestern State, played a half against Buffalo, and played against ISU and Texas. The other thing is, Saturday was the first day in which he had a full 100% healthy WR corp. I think those things may have aided in him having an off day. Certainly you have to give Texas its’ due for having a good defensive game plan, but I think the lack of rhythm early, may have contributed to Bryce having an off day on Saturday.

4.This will be Baylor's first Big 12 game in McClane Stadium; what are folks in Waco expecting the atmosphere to be like with the surprising top 10 matchup?

I think this game is one of the most anticipated games in a long time. As you said, this is the first game in McLane Stadium in which two top 10 teams will play each other. TCU should expect that place to be ROCKING. Baylor has never been known for its home-field advantage, but this stadium gives them just that. Trust me when I say that place gets super loud. It will be interesting to see how TCU responds in their first hostile game away from Ft. Worth. I think TCU fans would agree that playing at SMU was NOT a hostile environment.

5.What are your keys for the Bears to come out with a win on Saturday?

I think it will be very important for the Baylor offense to have some success early to develop some rhythm. I expect TCU to make Baylor run the ball, which could play in to Baylor’s favor. Bryce will need to need to combat his inner self and connect with his receivers early, to gain some confidence. I expect Baylor to try and isolate KD Cannon and Corey Coleman against the safeties and try to go deep early. It will be important for the Baylor’s offense to keep the TCU off balance. Which is something that they have had trouble doing against the Horned Frogs before. I see this game being a higher scoring game than some think. Something similar to what we saw last week in the OU/TCU game. Baylor is 22-1 at home the last 3 years, with their last loss coming to TCU in 2012. I think Baylor will pull away late, with a late TD from Shock Linwood, to make it a 38-27 victory for the Bears. I expect a great, great game in Waco on Saturday.

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