Rewind back to the first real Saturday night of college football (not Aug. 25) — you were likely watching Alabama vs. Florida State or not watching football at all. All of a sudden, you check your phone to look at some scores from around the country.
“WHAT?!?! Baylor’s losing to LIBERTY?”
*Googles Liberty University*
“It’s a school founded by Jerry Falwell. It’s like the ORU of Virginia, I guess.”
Baylor ended up losing that game, but surely it was just an especially rough night for the Bears, right? RIGHT?
Wrong. They really were that bad, and they proved it the next week by dropping another one at home to the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners. Baylor still has some good skill-position players left over from the Briles era, but grad transfer Anu Solomon couldn’t seem to put up points against a second-rate G5 school.
They looked like they were in pretty bad shape entering a tough road game at Duke the following week — and they were. Anu Solomon was out with a concussion suffered against Liberty, and the Bears were bad on both sides of the ball up until that point. Additionally Duke was (and is) a pretty solid football team. But the Bears were able to hold their own, trailing 24-20 entering the fourth quarter. Four total turnovers doomed them in the end, but the Bears actually looked like an FBS team against the Blue Devils.
Fortunately for Baylor, help is on the way. Six players, including running back Terence Williams, are returning from injuries this week. Most of you are likely familiar with Williams, who rushed for over 1,000 yards for the Bears last season. He’ll be making his season debut Saturday afternoon. They also return CB Grayland Arnold, safety Taion Sells, LB Jordan Feuerbacher, CB Jordan Tolbert and LB Lenoy Jones. Per Our Daily Bears:
“Those are some massive additions. Arnold is Baylor’s best corner. Sells should play significant minutes and start at safety. With Hasty out, Williams’ already impressive skillset is needed more than ever. And Feurbacher was Baylor’s only All-Big 12 selection by Pro Football Focus in week one.”
Feuerbacher is a Mackey Award watch list player who has missed the last two games with a hand injury. Arnold, who recorded four PBUs as a freshman last season, had been out since suffering a broken arm in fall camp. Sells missed all of the 2016 season with a foot injury after making four starts at safety in 2015. Adding these players to a roster that has serious depth issues won’t necessarily stop the bleeding at Baylor, but it could definitely make them a bit more competitive.
As I mentioned earlier, Baylor still has some good skill players left over from the Briles era — namely big-time deep threat Chris
Pratt Platt. The junior wideout had not one, but two 70-plus yard TDs against Duke in the third quarter, and he’s good enough to get by OU’s exceptional DBs.
Anu Solomon will be out again for concussion protocol in this one, but sophomore Zach Smith has some pretty good arm talent. However, his accuracy needs some work and he has a tendency to turn the ball over (four INTs on 36 attempts this season). The OU secondary could be licking its chops right now, but he’s more than capable of making big-time throws when his head is in the right place.
One area where there seems to be little hope for the Bears is along the defensive front. Against Duke, Baylor allowed 246 yards rushing and was gashed from start to finish. The lone bright spot is that they were able to produce 12 tackles for loss, but the fact that Duke was able to rush for that many yards after that fact should tell you something.
The Bears are currently allowing 411 yards per game on defense, which puts them at No. 111 nationally. They’re also tied for 101st nationally in points per game allowed (33.0). This doesn’t bode well at all against Baker Mayfield and the greatest offensive mastermind in college football right now, Lincoln Riley. I would also expect OU to truly be able to establish the run in this one.
All in all, Baylor’s offense should be in much better shape with Feuerbacher and Williams back in the fold, but I don’t envision them being able to put up more than anything in the 21-24 point range at best. And despite the fact that their depth in the defensive backfield will be better this week, they simply won’t be able to hang with OU’s offense. It may be a tougher game than we envisioned it being a or two week ago, but it’s still reasonable to expect a very convincing victory. I’m predicting the good guys win by a score of 48-17 in Waco. However, Baylor has just enough firepower (despite their overall offensive statistics) to keep OU’s defense honest, so focus will be key.