With Saturday quickly approaching I caught up with Sean Cordy, who covers Baylor for Today's U about this Baylor team. In case you've missed it, Baylor began the year looking as strong as ever. However, it took a turn for the worst when the Bears played the Cyclones and Seth Russell, who was having a fantastic year, was injured. Since, Baylor hasn't looked the same and lost last week to OU. Here's what Sean had to say about the Bears.
1)Tell us about this Baylor team. How is it different from last year?
Obviously with 17 starters having returned, there's not much that has changed. The wide receivers are better than ever, as Corey Coleman has proven he's one of the most freakish athletes in the nation -- considering Baylor has Shawn Oakman and Texas' strongest man, Andrew Billings, that speaks volumes. But obviously things have really taken a turn without Seth Russell at the helm. Russell brought the tenacity that Bryce Petty had, but the athleticism of Robert Griffin, which kept opponents on edge for whatever Kendal Briles' play calls would be. Most people perceived Baylor as a passing team coming into this year, but with four strong runners -- Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin in particular -- this is really a team whose passing attack complements the run game, contrary to public perception. That's really what has changed the most, as the offensive line has improved to help pave the way for an even better year on the ground.
2) How has the team changed with Stidham taking control under center?
There were critics of Russell not being afraid to take a hit (which ultimately led to his injury), but his risk taking and RG3-like speed allowed Baylor to be much more flexible on offense. Stidham came to the program as the No. 2 dual-threat QB in the nation, but he has not shown any true ability to evade the pocket. When he does, he's more than happy to just slide two yards past the line to protect himself. That's good to an extent, but it doesn't help the team in the moment. Now receivers are more limited in their routes as it seems he needs to through directly to his first read, and without having much chemistry, it can lead to a lot of mistakes (like the interception he threw to KD Cannon on a slant that sealed Oklahoma's win).
3) What does Baylor need to do to make sure Stidham has a good game against what can be a stout OSU defense?
It really needs to focus on pounding the rock and keep an injured Stidham from getting injured even worse. Contrary to how Baylor has succeeded in the past, it seems that keeping the ball in its possession will be the greatest weapon against OSU considering how explosive its offense has been as of late. So really to answer the question, making sure Stidham only has to drop back on passing downs to avoid getting mauled by OSU's wrecking crew is essential. But don't discount the running attack from breaking loose, it as it has the most runs of over 10 and 20 yards in the conference.
4) Ok, so it seems like we have no idea what is going on with Stidham. One day he's playing, the next he's not. So what do you know and what would you predict if the game started in an hour?
Earlier this week, it seemed Stidham was "unlikely", and within the span of a day he was confirmed to start. That being said, he's still injured and he was clearly a sitting duck in the pocket against Oklahoma. It's a back injury, so both his ability to throw and run are going to be compromised. But yes, he will start.
5) If Stidham does miss or ends up being taken out at any point, what can you tell us about Johnson?
I would suspect Stidham will be in the whole game, should he be protected well (but that's a big assumption against Ogbah). But what I can say about Johnson is though he is a wide receiver on the depth chart, he was a quarterback last season as a redshirt frosh. Folks around Waco like to call him "RG4" since he's very athletic and can also sling the deep ball. Really, that's what he's best at, launching it deep. It's not always very pretty, but he does provide mobility that Stidham may not have at his disposal this week.
6) The Baylor defense gets a bad rep. As someone who covers the Bears, what do you think of this defense?
This defense gets the same bad rep most Big 12 schools do, considering how much the offenses score. But like OSU, this is actually a very efficient group that actually ranks just a hair higher in tackles for loss per game, both allow about 38 percent of third down conversions, and Baylor gives up 402 yards per game (compared to 393 from OSU) just to name a few stats.But really what makes this defense really tick is the turnovers it produces, having now forced a turnover in 24 straight games, the longest streak in the nation.It thrives on big stops and getting the ball back in its offenses' hands, and with safety Orion Stewart doubtful, the chance to sling it deep like OSU did against TCU will be a turning point in favor of the Pokes.
7) What is your prediction?
People seem to like to compare this game to the last time the Bears came to Stillwater, but there are so many things that are different this year, there's not much to compare. For one, Baylor is the underdog this round. But I'm taking OSU here, winning 41-31 where the better defense prevails. Should Oakman come out to play for real and get past double teams, I won't be surprised to see this turn into yet another signature Cardiac Cowboys game, though.