Five Questions: Baylor

Baylor Bears expert Kevin Barrera, a writer for BearsIllustrated, provides the inside scoop on Baylor prior to this week's Big 12 matchup with Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (4-7, 2-6 in Big 12) host the Sooners (9-1, 6-1) 2:30 p.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.

1. How is Bryce Petty health wise? He cracked a couple bones in his spine early in the season, but I haven't heard much about it recently.

Barrera: I believe Bryce Petty is 100% now. There were some questions about his health and it certainly seemed as though his back was still bothering him during the Kansas game, but I think all of those questions were put to rest after the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State games.

2. Kliff Kingsbury said earlier this week Baylor has the best college receiving corps he has ever seen. Break down the unit for me. What makes this group so special?

Barrera: I think what makes this group so special is their diversity. With Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman, you have WRs that have RB bodies. They have the strength to beat you at the line of scrimmage, and have the speed to beat you down the field 1on1. With Levi Norwood and KD Cannon, you have two WRs that are elite route runners, that can beat you inside the hashes. With Cannon you also have someone that can kill you with you his speed. Briles has said he is the most impressive HS WR he has ever seen. Jay Lee gives you a big body and someone in the mold of Josh Gordon. He hasn’t quite put it all together, but he has great blend of size, strength, and speed. This WR corp truly gives you 5 options on every play. The crazy thing is I think they will be better next year.

3. Right now Baylor is on the outside looking in of the playoffs. If the Bears win out do you believe they will qualify for the playoffs? Also, any indication Baylor may beef up its out of conference schedule in the future?

Barrera: You know, the OOC is a big talking point of Baylor fans. Coach Briles and Ian McCaw have stood by their stance that if they go undefeated in their OOC and win the Big 12 Championship, then there should be no question that they should qualify for the CFP. I agree with that to a certain extent. The problem I have, and it something I hope they look at, is if you are going to play the likes of Buffalo, SMU, Rice, or any schools like that, don’t schedule an FCS team. If you are going to challenge yourself with a P5 team in OOC, then schedule an FCS team. But I think it just comes down to the fact that they believe the Big 12 is one of the top 3 conferences in the country, and if you have a Conference Champion not make the playoff then there is something wrong with that picture. And that line of thinking I certainly agree with.

With regards to Baylor making the playoff, after last nights rankings, I don’t see them getting in over Ohio State. I think Baylor will jump TCU if it gets by Tech an beats Kansas State at home. Frankly IMHO, this has never been a Baylor/TCU argument. For me, and I think others would agree, it is about how the committee views the resume of Ohio State, Mississippi State, and Baylor. Those 3 teams will be working for the last playoff spot. Ohio State has the upper hand, and unfortunately for Baylor, if Ohio State wins the B1G Championship, then Baylor will be left out of the playoff, which is unfortunate because the Big 12 is a much much stronger conference than the B1G.

4. Despite losing several playmakers from last year's squad, including LB Eddie Lackey and safety Ahmad Dixon, Baylor is among the best, if not THE best, defense in the Big 12. How has Baylor accomplished this and who are the best players?

Barrera: I think you have to look at the defensive line to find where this defense has been successful. The Baylor defense has never had the fortune of having a dominant DL that can get a pass rush without bringing help. Andrew Billings and Shawn Oakman are the stars of the defense, but unsung heroes like Beau Blackshear, K.J. Smith, and so on, have also aided in helping this defense be one of the tops in the conference. Bryce Hager is also a name that fans should know as he is that blue collar, lunch pale guy that just outworks everyone and is constantly making plays. Billings and Oakman are the stars, but Hager is the glue that holds this defense together.

5. Do Baylor fans enjoy playing at Jerry World or would they prefer going back to the standard home and home with Tech?

Barrera: This is a good question. Most fans do see the value of playing at Jerry World, and I know the coaches certainly see the value, for recruiting purposes, but I think as a whole, the Baylor fan base would like to see this series go back to a home and home. With the new McLane Stadium, it makes it ever more of a want for Baylor fans, because they don’t like the fact that they are losing a home game.

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