The Oklahoma Sooners are gearing up for their home conference opener, as the Baylor Bears roll into Norman looking to shake things up. Here to help us paint a picture is BU expert Sam Bradshaw of Sic ‘Em 365. For this week’s Q&A, we discuss Baylor’s QBs, ways of potentially limiting Kyler Murray, Texas travel stops and more!
Also make sure to check out this week’s podcast, which features Shehan Jeyarajah of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
With Art Briles now gone for three years, do you think Matt Rhule (in his second season) has done a good job with changing the culture in Waco -- both within the program and the Baylor family as a whole?
Matt’s rebuilt the culture on the team from the ground up. Across the Baylor family he’s done a lot to help but cleaning house across athletics and at the top with a new President also plays a big role and has been impactful.
Most OU fans are quite familiar with Jalen Hurd (former Tennessee RB), Denzel Mims and Chris Platt. Who else should OU fans be aware of?
Tyquan Thornton & Josh Fleeks are two freshmen that have made big plays over the last two weeks. Both can really fly and figure to see time this weekend.
Charlie Brewer is finally entrenched as the starter after an early-season battle with Jalan McClendon. What set Brewer apart in that competition? What does he still need to work on?
I would say that Jalan had a stronger arm but Charlie was more decisive and made quicker decisions. He’s young and should improve across the board but so far has been really good. He generally does a great job protecting the ball while still being aggressive downfield.
John Lovett and JaMykal Hasty both are just shy of 200 yards on the season and each averaging over five yards per carry. What does each bring to the table?
Lovett is a little bigger and Hasty is a quick burst guy with better long speed. Both are good backs but are a little different. Trestan Ebner sees a lot of time too and is another good speed option who made a lot of big plays last fall and is fairly elusive as well.
Former OU signee Johncarlo Valentin will be starting in place of the injured Xavier Newman. In your impression, have they been pleased with his development?
Valentin has been getting over a nagging injury so I think they are simply happy to have him available these days. He’s got a lot of upside but he’s mostly been out.
Defensively, Baylor is 103rd in efficiency. What’s been the unit’s biggest weakness?
This unit will do pretty well for a while and then give up a huge play. Against Duke they have an easy sack dialed up perfectly with a blitz call and then run right by him as the dual threat QB runs for 20+ and keeps a scoring drive alive. Against UTSA they had every gap covered except one LB took on a fullback’s incorrect shoulder which allowed a decent sized run. Simple mistakes that turn into big plays has been a recurring issue but they did a much better job last week. This team rotates in a ton of young players on defense and there’s been a bit of learning curve with this defensive system.
Speaking of the defense, who stands out in that unit?
Defensive Tackle Ira Lewis, Linebacker Clay Johnston, and cornerback Derrek Thomas have all played well this fall.
With BU currently sitting at 3-1, do you think this could potentially be a bowl team? What are the chances of that?
It’s a 50/50 bet. Before the season I thought this was a 6-6 team with a 2 win swing in either direction. I still view it that way. I’d be surprised if they finished worse than 4-8 or better than 8-4 this year. Anything in between wouldn’t shock me.
What specifically do you think Baylor will try to do offensively to exploit this Oklahoma defense?
I think Baylor will lean on the passing game like they successfully did last fall. The Sooners have been good in run defense apart from the triple option scheme Army ran but Baylor will likely try to run it enough to keep OU honest. Using the QB as a runner will likely be in that mix too.
On the other side, what do you think Baylor can do to effectively limit Kyler Murray’s big-play potential?
I think Iowa State made a mistake sitting back in bend but don’t break schemes. Murray and his supporting cast are too good to simply rush three and hope you stuff them in the red zone or wait on a mistake. I think the Bears need to bring some fire zone blitzes and give Kyler a lot of different looks. They probably won’t stop OU but they need to disrupt the offense enough to get some key stops. If you do that you give Brewer and the offense a fighting chance.
How do you see this one shaking out? Do you think Baylor can cover the spread?
I think OU wins but Baylor can cover the spread if the line is able to protect Brewer. Injuries on the line have created some uncertainty as to how well they’ll be able to do that. That’s the matchup to watch for whether this is a close game or if it gets out of hand.
Who is your favorite Baylor alum outside of athletics?
Well the cop-out answer is my wife. If that won’t count here then Trey Wingo is always a safe choice. I’ve never heard of a Baylor person disliking Trey.
Buc-ees or Czech Stop?
What’s one fact about Baylor that you think people should know?
Baylor is the oldest continously running University in Texas- chartered by the Republic of Texas in 1845.
Who would win in a cage match -- Rico Gathers or Mike Singletary (in his prime)?
I wouldn’t bet against either of them but Rico has to have the reach advantage and is probably a weight class up. Mike wouldn’t make it easy though.