1) It would seem that there would be a lot of pressure on Baylor this week — moreso than Texas — with all the external factors: first time playing for a Big 12 title, senior night, the final game at Floyd Casey, etc. What's the team's mindset coming in?
Steve Brischke — I think it's a lot like the Oklahoma game about a month ago. Actually, there was maybe a little more buildup for that game because Baylor was undefeated, they knew they were the only game on in the entire nation at that time, and it was really their chance to prove it.
Everyone has known this game against Texas, the last game at Floyd Casey - everyone has known this game would be a huge for a while. It has been sold out since September, which hasn't happened often at Baylor. So, I think the team can be a little calmer coming into this game than the Oklahoma game.
2) Who do you feel will be Baylor's X-Factors in this game on offense and defense; players who aren't necessarily considered top-flight guys, but who could impact the game in a major way?
Brischke — On offense if you're Baylor, you need one of Levi Norwood/Clay Fuller/Corey Coleman to be that X-factor. They have all done well in spurts, with Norwood and Fuller scoring against TCU and Norwood going off against Tech. The combination of those players is still trying to replicate the production lost from Tevin Reese.
On defense, you have to look at Orion Stewart, Ahmad Dixon's replacement. The redshirt freshman had a pick-6 last week against TCU, and has played more and more in the last several weeks. He was a big hitter in the game against Tech.
3) Not that Baylor's offense hasn't still been good, but it seems to have taken a slight step back with the injuries, especially to Spencer Drango and Tevin Reese. How have the Bears adjusted to the injury woes they've had on that side of the ball?
Brischke — I would also add that the injuries to Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were particularly devastating in Baylor's only loss this year - Oklahoma State. With both back last week, you saw Baylor just barely begin to return to form before TCU shut them down. Lache had 92 yards rushing in the first half against TCU.
To your question, the adjustment has been different. I discussed the wide receivers above, and Baylor is still struggling to find that true deep threat equivalent or in the vicinity of what Reese gave them. On the line, they have struggled with protection and opening running lanes, although it's not clear if that is just a by-product of playing 2 of the toughest defenses in the Big 12 (Oklahoma State and TCU), or if that is the result of the loss of Drango. The Bears first went with Pat Colbert, Drango's backup, before moving Colbert to RT against TCU and flipping the current RT, Kelvin Palmer, over to LT. Palmer had started every game at RT this season, before the move prior to the TCU kickoff.
4) Obviously the main story that everyone has latched onto this year is the Bears' improvement on defense? How have the Bears improved, and are they doing anything different schematically?
Brischke — Not to give you a canned answer, but the improvement is most likely the result of their experience. You have starting senior DE's, you have starting senior LB's, you have starting senior members of the secondary at both corners, at safety with Ahmad Dixon, and with the hybrid safety/linebacker position that Sam Holl mans.That is 7 senior starters.
After 30 plus years of successful defensive coaching, Coach Bennett is not totally reworking his schemes. Rather, the players understand better where Coach Bennett wants them and where their assignments are each play.
5) What's your prediction for Saturday's game?
Brischke — I think Baylor wins this game, although it could certainly be close. In their last 17 games, Baylor has only 2 losses, both on the road. Their lone loss at home last year was to TCU on a flukey turnover filled game. They are simply a different team at home than on the road.
Both teams have sustained major injuries, with Texas getting the worse end of the stick. Of course, it will rarely be an easy win against Texas, especially if the weather conditions favor a power-run game. However, I think the Bears will find their confidence again at home, and ultimately pull out the win.