It's Baylor week here on Frogs O' War, and we've caught up on a bit of Bear history, as well as had the customary excellent preview from the Wimple. Things have changed a bit since this time last year for the bears: they now have had back to back bowl seasons for the first time in school history, they have a Heisman trophy winner, they have a win over TCU and they even have an SBNation blog. Head writer Mark C. Moore of the blog Our Daily Bears was kind enough to answer some of our questions about Baylor, TCU and the Big 12. Make the jump if you will and see what the view from the other side of the rivalry is.
1.) HawkeyedFrog: TCU and Baylor go way, way back in terms of our rivalry, playing one of the longest series in sports (as well as the most even) on the field. Off the field the contentious relationship between the fanbases kicked into the stratosphere for TCU fans when Baylor got the Big 12 invite. We won't rehash how that happened, but I am interested in hearing just what Baylor fans thought of TCU when we renewed hostilities after a decade apart in 2006. Will TCU be back to being Baylor's archrival, or has too much time passed to really pick up the hate torch on the Bear side?
I've always believed that TCU and Baylor had more to gain from a healthy (and active) rivalry than either fanbase probably wants to admit. Though the departure was less than amicable and resulted in (perhaps justifiably) hurt feelings, the two schools/programs are back together now and need each other going forward. In a league dominated by large, well-funded, land-grant universities to the north and south, the more popular it becomes for recruits and fans to spurn those programs, the more each school will benefit. With A&M gone from the
conference now, it becomes even more important for Baylor and TCU to continue to improve their recruiting in order to keep Texas players from leaving the state. There can be genuine, good-natured sports hate between the two fanbases, but I hope it stays at that.
2.) HawkeyedFrog: Onto the 2012 football season, I think we're all really curious how Baylor replaces the best offensive player in school history- Who is taking over the quarterback spot for Robert Griffin, and will Art Briles have to adjust the offense for a different skillset?
Senior Nick Florence will be stepping into RG3's immense shoes this season and will be given the keys to an offensive machine that was actually about a lot more than just RG3 last season. As far as the passing offense goes, I expect things to be very similar; Briles has always been a fan of aggressive, downfield passing, particularly when he has receivers he can trust to make big plays on the outside. With returning starters Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson, along with newcomer graduate-transfer Darryl Stonum from Michigan, lining up on the outside, Briles and Florence will have the weapons they need to stretch the field. On the inside, though Baylor loses perhaps the best receiver in school history in Kendall Wright, uber-athletic junior Tevin Reese returns and true freshman Corey Coleman may be asked to step up immediately and fill some of the void. I actually expect that Stonum will start opposite Williams on the outside with Sampson moving in to flank Reese. The passing protection schemes will certainly have to change at least somewhat due to the dropoff in escapability from RG3 to Florence. Florence is athletic and can run a bit, but he's not the threat RG3 was by any means.
My biggest question about the offense this season will actually come from the running game. Aside from the difference it made in the escaping the rush, RG3's running ability powered Baylor's bread-and-butter zone read offense by making the defense commit to stopping him. Coupled in 2011 with the underrated Terrance Ganaway, Baylor's running offense was actually one of the best in the country. It's circular logic, to be sure, but the run fed the pass through the play-action and vice versa. After losing RG3 and Ganaway to the NFL, I have concerns about Baylor's ability to run the ball effectively and open things up the same way.
3.) HawkeyedFrog: Speaking of Art Briles, the man can obviously coach. Does Baylor think it's going to be able to hang onto him long term, or if the right job opens up (Take a hypothetical Arkansas or Tennessee opening for example) is he out the door?
As predictable as this answer may be, I don't think Briles is going anywhere anytime soon. He has a new contract that pays him a lot more than people think (remember, Baylor doesn't have to report salaries), an administration that supports him unequivocally (take the hiring of Phil Bennett as DC, for example), and a brand new $250 million
on-campus stadium opening in 2014 that has been his single biggest desire since taking the job in 2007. Also, he's probably not as young as people think that he is. At 56 (older than Gary Patterson (52), Bob Stoops (51), and obviously Mike Gundy (45)), he's far a spring chicken, and he's said repeatedly that he's not interested in jumping
from job to job.
Further, if Briles didn't leave for the A&M job, which, despite whatever Aggie fans might tell you was offered to him this offseason, I don't see him leaving for Arkansas or Tennessee. The only program I legitimately fear stealing him-- Texas-- probably never would. He's spent his entire career coaching in Texas in the high school and
college levels and relies on his contacts here for recruiting, hiring coaches, and almost everything else. (Ed. I think the entire college football world will hold it's breath after Mack retires. The only good news in that is that Texas can't hire every team's coach.)
4.) HawkeyedFrog: Instability has led to catastrophe for the Big 12 for the past few summers, but this year things have started to turn around in a big way. What do you think of the new look Big 12, and do you think we should expand back up to 12? What teams would make it worth it in your opinion?
I am on record as advocating vehemently for an expansion back to 12 and the reintroduction of a conference championship game. I don't see 10 teams as a viable end-game for the Big 12 with the rest of the
college football world looking around with hungry eyes. I know the grant of rights guarantees stability in at least the short term, but the Big 12 has the programs necessary to establish itself firmly as the second-best football conference in the country, and with expansion in the right way, challenge the SEC for the top of the mountain. As far as which programs to target, I think the answer is somewhat obvious: FSU first and whoever else from the ACC accepts first, second, whether it is Clemson, Georgia Tech, or someone else. I don't know for sure that it's possible at this point to get FSU, but I do think that schools flatly opposing expansion are insane.
5.) HawkeyedFrog: TCU will have completed major renovations to their football stadium for our first season in the Big 12 and it looks absolutely fantastic. Meanwhile we're heading to Waco for consecutive years, so let's talk about your stadium a bit. There have been plans in the air for a new stadium for Baylor for what seems like forever, how are things progressing on that front now?
Extremely well, actually. I already talked about it a bit above, but Baylor has announced that it will begin construction soon of a $250 million, on-campus football stadium to be finished in time (hopefully) for the start of the 2014 season. If you haven't seen the latest renderings, I've posted them on ODB repeatedly and they are a sight to
behold. Baylor will soon have a one-of-a-kind stadium Baylor fans (and the entire conference) can be extremely proud of.
6.) HawkeyedFrog: Finally, what are your season win/loss predictions for Baylor and your prediction for the score of the TCU/Baylor game?
With the possibility still existing that the post-spring depth chart could change significantly, particularly on defense, I haven't yet sat down for a detailed look at Baylor's 2012 season. I will say, however, that Baylor's non-conference schedule looks relatively light and I don't think Kansas, Iowa State, or Texas Tech will be very good. Taking into consideration that Baylor typically wins at least one game it shouldn't (and often loses one, as well), I'll say 7 wins and bowl eligibility.
As far as the Baylor-TCU game goes, I expect (and hope) that both teams will be better on defense than we were last year, so we won't see another 50-48 shootout. Still, our defense is a huge unknown going into this season and we did lose our three most important offensive players from last year. TCU improved considerably over the
course of last season and doesn't seem to have lost as much, so I'll predict a TCU win at FCS.
HawkeyedFrog: Thanks again to Mark C. Moore for the answers and analysis, and for more on Baylor sports check out Our Daily Bears. I know I'm stoked for the now annual TCU/Baylor game- do you think that it can become a friendly rivalry as Mark suggests? What do you think the score of this year's TCU/Baylor game will be? Let us know in the comments.