September 30, 2008

A Look from the Baylor Side of Things

With this weekend signaling the start of Big 12 play it's also time for to get five questions going with fellow Big 12 publishers. This week, with the Sooners taking on the Baylor Bears we catch up with publisher Jason Howell to get a green and gold feeling on how this week's Big 12 opener might go in Waco. Some may overlook the Bears but considering a Big 12 opener on the road last year spelled the Sooners first loss of the season.

Baylor is off to a solid start, but how seriously do fans and others around the program rate their chances against Oklahoma this weekend?

I think most see this game as a long shot win, but they aren't ready to write it off as a sure loss. When Art Briles arrived he said the team will measure their success by how they fight and compete and they aren't using anyone but themselves as the measuring stick. For the most part Baylor fans want to see a team take the field not already beaten. They want to see Baylor come out confident ready to put in a long days work and do what they can do to give the Bears a chance. Now a win is a tall order with a team as talented and disciplined as Oklahoma, but if they go out there and compete I think most will be happy whatever the outcome.

The emergence of Robert Griffin is Baylor's most exciting personnel news in years, give Sooner fans an idea of just what kind of player they'll be facing come Saturday afternoon. Who is a player he reminds you of?

He is a player the likes Baylor hasn't seen since the beginning of the Big 12 conference. He is a game breaker who has the ball in his hands every offensive play and as dangerous as his legs are he has the arm to lay the ball out there on the run and he's accurate.

I know, I know too good to be true, but he's just that good. For example the kid enrolled at Baylor early went through every spring practice and then joined the track team and went on to win the Big 12 400m championship and finished third at nationals before going to the Olympic trials. Then he returned to the football field and didn't skip a beat clearly separating himself in fall practices.

I don't know but you could probably put him in there with the Seneca Wallace, Michael Bishop types. I don't want to go Vince Young but he's just a tremendous athlete who's only getting better each game.

How has Art Briles placed his stamp on the program to date?

The thing that really stands out is how the Bears are fighting in the trenches. The offensive line is one of the best Baylor has had in a while but the defensive line came into the season with some big time question marks. Those questions on the defensive line haven't been answered all the way but there is no question they have some guys in there who are willing to scratch and claw to get the job done on both sides of the line.

The other thing that just seems to really be different is the way Briles gameplans offensively. He has a method to his madness and things just seem to set themselves up nicely.

Is there a player, aside from Griffin, that you feel the Sooners will need to be aware of to avoid the upset in Waco?

Well it's another true freshman and it's one Sooner fans are likely going to know about. Receiver Kendall Wright has been one of the most reliable targets and biggest playmakers at receiver so far for the Bears. He led the Bears in receiving against both Northwestern St. and UConn and has made some big plays for the Bears over and over again. Look for him to again be a big target for the Bears Saturday.

Finally, what do you see as the keys to the game, and how do you see things playing out?

First thing Baylor has to do is establish the run game and then Griffin needs to keep from throwing INTs (he hasn't thrown one all season) and then they've got to come up with some turnovers on defense. But the biggest thing Baylor has to do is on special teams where kickoff coverage has set teams up on the wrong side of the 50 the last two opening kickoffs. In the end I think Baylor gives OU all they have and Bob Stoops and OU will leave knowing all they want about Griffin. However, it will not be enough and OU will take the day.

Howell's Prediction: Oklahoma 45 Baylor 17

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