Gone are the days of Robert Griffin III and Seth Russell in Waco, Texas. Instead the Baylor Bears stand 0-3 on the season entering conference play. With the rebuilding road appearing to be longer than anticipated, here is a first look at the Bears.
Allowing 33 points per game, Baylor ranks 101st nationally on the defensive side of the ball. Granted, a handful of players return to the field this week after missing previous games for various reasons. Where the Bears need the most help is in stopping the pass. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 68.6% of their pass attempts for five touchdowns. During that span, Henry Black intercepted a single pass. However, the competition takes a step up entering Big 12 play.
On the ground, the Bears have surrendered just over 200 yards per outing alongside four touchdowns. However, Clay Johnston remains a bright spot. The sophomore linebacker can claim a team high 29 tackles through three games. Finding a way into the backfield consistently, Johnston also leads the program in tackles for loss current set at 6.5 meaning he’ll be the player to watch come Saturday.
Although Anu Solomon started the first two contests of the season, the quarterback was replaced by Zach Smith in week three on the road. According to reports, Smith will not get his first start at home against this Oklahoma Sooners defense. Recording a dismal 36.1% completion rate, there room for growth from the sophomore. Behind three touchdown passes and four interceptions, Smith may yield to the rushing attack moving forward.
Rushing for 60.67 yards per game, freshman John Lovett has received the majority of the carries. On 41 carries the running back has scored twice and is looking to add to the resume. No other back on the roster has more than 11 carries though. This group remains difficult to gauge but has managed to put up 149.33 yards per game.
Starring in a receiving role, is junior Chris Platt. Although the receiver has caught just 11 passes, Platt has racked up 308 total yards. As a deep ball threat, this receiver knows how to make a defense pay putting up four touchdowns so far.
Baylor has struggled to work their way into the red zone this season. On six trips inside the opponent 20 yard line, the Bears have converted on five of those. Moving forward the talent level across the field increases, so they’ll need to find more red zone opportunities instead of relying solely on the big play ability. Regardless, the discrepancy in talent will likely rear its ugly head against the Sooners.
If Baylor hopes to keep things close, the Bears need to find a way to control the pace of the game as well as the clock. Keeping the likes of Baker Mayfield off the field can only help the BU cause.