With the dog days of summer firmly on the horizon good football conversations are going to come all the more valuable as each day draws us nearer to the first day of fall practice. Not that we'd actually discourage any conversation at all regarding the Sooners but we've just about said all that there is to be said about Oklahoma at this point. So let's add Oklahoma's Big 12 opponents into the conversation over the next couple of weeks.
With eight returning starters on offense the Bears are looking to improve on an offense that scored an average of 32.6 points per game. The pressing issue is where their running game will come from with the departure of Jay Finley. Defensively its a different story for a Baylor squad that surrendered an average of 29.8 points per game in 2010. Five starters return on defense but the better news is that the six new guys bring a new attitude to a defense that has a long history of struggling.
After ending a long post season drought in 2010, here are three questions for Baylor heading into 2011.
Who will line up in the backfield with Robert Griffin III?
Jay Finley rushed for 1,191 yards in 2010, averaging 6.1 yards per carry along the way. He's gone now and Baylor must find an adequate replacement to help take pressure off dual threat quarterback Robert Griffin III. Terrance Ganaway and Jarred Salubi are both experienced and talented and could end up sharing the load this fall. Ganaway averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season while Salubi produced 8.2 yards per carry but also had twenty fewer carries. Both had a solid spring and there appears to be little to no separation between the two.
What does new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett bring to the table?
We've already mentioned Baylor's struggles on the defensive side of the ball and one of the measures taken in the off-season to try and rectify the problems was bringing in longtime coach Phil Bennett to coach the defense. He'll have five returning starters to work with from last year's defense and a possible star first year starter Ahmad Dixon at nickel back. With the explosiveness the Bears have on offense a solid defense is the only thing holding them back from taking the next step up in the Big 12 pecking order.
How good can the Griffin to Gordon connection be?
Robert Griffin III is the best dual threat quarterback in the Big 12. He possesses sprinter's speed, has a cannon for an arm and can put nice touch on the ball. Baylor's problem is that they can't win on Griffin alone. He has to have help from receivers that can create space and catch the ball down field. Josh Gordon seems to be the most likely candidate to be the Bears' go to guy through the air. Oklahoma held him to just 13 yards on two receptions in last year's 53-24 rout but for the season he managed an impressive 17 yards per reception while tying for a team high seven touchdowns on 42 receptions.
Oklahoma plays Baylor on November 19th.