That's right, it's finally here. Baylor Week, in all its resplendent glory.
As always, we start with the stats. It doesn't take too in-depth a look at this to realize that the Guy Morriss Era didn't end with much pizazz. Five different QBs combined for a 108.1 passer rating--pretty atrocious for a 'passing' offense. The biggest glimpses of offensive potential came from two 2008 returnees--Thomas White (a senior in '08) and David Gettis (a junior), who showed homerun potential while combining for 45 catches, almost 900 yards, and 8 TDs (all by White). The other bright spot is an offensive line that returns four starters after giving up only 21 sacks in 2007 (though they did manage only a 3.1 yards/carry average).
Defensively, Baylor has, at the very least, some proficient tacklers. Junior Jordan Lake (who hopefully makes the NFL so that Chris Bermann can inevitably call him Jordan Emerson Lake and Palmer) had 120 tackles and two INTs, FFs, and FRs each, but...well, it probably says more about the rest of the defense that the free safety had 120 tackles. He had three more tackles than William Moore, and in two fewer games. Good for him, bad for Baylor. Joe Pawelek swooped in with 99 tackles of his own. These two had half of Baylor's forced fumbles and almost half of their INTs and fumble recoveries.
In all, this was a team that scored just barely over half as many TDs as its opponent, scored 24 fewer TDs on the ground (29-5), had 5 fewer first downs per game, threw for 70 fewer yards despite throwing 129 more passes, stunk on special teams, stunk in the redzone, stunk on 3rd downs (though their 3rd-down defense was decent!), lost twice as many turnovers as they gained, and...okay, you get the picture. Even for Baylor, the 2007 edition took a step backwards.
The Baylor official site has a pretty good 2008 season outlook up right now. Art Briles is taking a pretty good first step in quotability with things like this...
"We need for all those guys up front to be men," Briles said. "They’ve just got to man up, because we don’t have a lot of depth there. But if I was a player, I’d be happy, because it would mean I’d get to play a lot. They've got to prepare their bodies and get themselves ready for football-related war. But Jason (Lamb) had a great spring. Jason’s a big body that has got quick twitch. Vincent Rhodes needs to be the most dominant d-lineman Baylor’s had in the last decade. That’s the way he needs to approach his season. Trey Bryant is a guy that could be a difference-maker for us. A big guy that’s quick twitch."
...but this is the Big 12, and he's got to deal with the likes of Cap'n Leach, Mike Gundy, Dan Nolte-Hawkins, and Mark Mangino (when he's pissed). Good first step, though, from Quick Twitch Briles.
I can't say I agree with this, but I guess it's worth noting that Baylor does have two preseason All-Conference picks this year--the aforementioned Pawelek and Lake. I think they fall directly into the "somebody had to make the tackle, and nobody else on this team was capable" category, but hey...preseason honors are preseason honors.
The hire of Art Briles was relatively well-received in football land, as exemplified by these two predictable "Baylor about to turn around?" columns: first from the Tulsa World and second from RealFootball365.com.
This link points you to the only place where the sentence "Baylor Football will look the same in 2008" will be construed by Baylor fans as a good thing.
Finally...proof that even bad teams have good players and good plays...I present to you the 2007 Baylor highlight video...