Normally I do a Q&A with the upcoming opponent’s bloggers, but since Bearmeat left the building last year I haven’t found a good Baylor blog (if you are a Baylor blogger, or know of a good Baylor blog, please let me know).
Instead this week, the Q&A is with a real media type, one whose profession it is to talk and write about this stuff. I’m please to have Brice Cherry of the Waco Tribune-Herald join us at Corn Nation for this week’s “Blogger Q&A” about the upcoming Nebraska - Baylor game.
Has the mood changed much at Baylor with the addition of Art Briles over Guy Morriss, or are they more of a “show me” type crowd?
There's been some excitement over the hiring of Briles, but it's more of a subdued excitement. Baylor fans have been through this before, with Chuck Reedy, Dave Roberts, Kevin Steele and Morriss. They seem to be taking a more "wait-and-see" approach. There was certainly a faction of the fan base that wanted Mike Singletary as head coach, but in general people are satisfied with Briles, who has strong ties within the Texas high school football ranks.
As far as it translating to big numbers at the ticket gate, that certainly hasn't happened. Baylor fans must be convinced in that regard. If Briles can bring the program back to bowl contention — no easy chore — the fans will follow.
By now everyone knows about freshman sensation quarterback Robert Griffin. Are there any other stars in the making at Baylor?
Griffin is obviously the real deal, but he's not the only one. The good news for Baylor is that several of their most promising impact players are freshmen or sophomores. Most notable among those is Kendall Wright, a true freshman receiver out of Pittsburg, Texas. Two weeks ago against Iowa State, he had seven catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns, including a wild, zig-zagging 51-yard TD that made ESPN's "Top Plays." He followed that up with another seven-catch effort last week against Oklahoma State, and is quickly becoming Griffin's favorite target.
What do you see as the most interesting matchup in this weekend's game in terms of units?
Probably Nebraska's offensive line versus Baylor's defensive front. The D-line for the Bears is probably the weakest unit on the team, and has generated very little in the way of pass rush this season. (Though it is above-average against the run).
Baylor's defensive schemes are such that the linebackers rack up most of the tackles. But for the Bears to even have a chance, they'll need to win that battle in the trenches and get after Nebraska QB Joe Ganz with more frequency.
What one key item does Baylor have to do to win against Nebraska?
I think Griffin needs to be Griffin. Meaning, he's got to make a few more plays with his feet. The last couple of weeks, defenses have seemed to shadow him at every possible turn, and Briles has also been careful in his play-calling, because he doesn't want to get his young "franchise" QB hurt, either.
But Baylor is at its best when Griffin breaks a few long runs, particularly early in the game, because the defense is then forced to respect that option. Obviously, that creates openings in the passing attack.
Finally, and it's kind of obvious, but the Bears must continue to hang onto the ball if they're going to go into Lincoln and come out with a win. It's been a point of emphasis for Baylor all year, and the Bears have had just one turnover the past five games. Griffin is the only quarterback in the Big 12 without an interception, an amazing statistic for anyone, much less an 18-year-old freshman.
Does Baylor belong in the Big 12?
Absolutely. Though my wife has a Baylor degree, I'm not a BU apologist by any stretch. But to contend that Baylor doesn't belong in the Big 12 because of its football woes is extremely narrow-minded.
If you examine the conference's all-sports rankings, you'll find that Baylor typically finishes in the top half of the league. The men's basketball program has achieved an epic revival under perpetually positive coach Scott Drew, who has taken the program light-years from the tragedy and scandal marked by Dave Bliss' tenure. The women's basketball program won a national title in 2005 — the first Big 12 team, men's or women's, to do so since the formation of the conference. Baseball, softball, track and field, cross country and tennis have all had their share of successes.
Baylor's two national titles in the Big 12 era (in women's hoops and men's tennis) are actually more than Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas Tech and Texas A&M have combined. (CB: If that isn't a touche' I don't know what is!)
In the bigger picture, Baylor is also attactive in that it is the conference's only private school, and one that graduates its student-athletes at the conference's highest rate.
Brice Cherry Bio:
Brice Cherry has worked at the Waco Tribune-Herald for 10 years, currently covering Baylor football, women's basketball and baseball, among other sports. He previously headed up the newspaper's high school sports coverage. A two-time winner of the prestigious Fred Hartman Excellence in Sportswriting Award from the Texas Daily Newspaper Association, he has also won awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and Cox Newspapers. Prior to arriving in Waco, he worked as sports editor of his hometown Brenham (Texas) Banner-Press for 2.5 years.