IT’S BAYLOR HATE WEEK PEOPLE (which is every week, but this week more so than usual). Someone you shouldn’t hate however, is Peter Pope, a staff member over at our sister site Our Daily Bears. He and I sipped some tea, talked about football, and he answered some questions for us about this weeks game. Enjoy.
1) So how is everyone over at ODB and in Waco in general feeling about this game?
I think the general feeling at ODB (based on my extensive conversations with every correspondent that has the username dfank_BU and not really many others) is that we're not entirely sure how we feel about this game. I think the general impression is that if Baylor executes to their potential (something I'm not sure we've seen all season) we think Baylor should win. That being said, there are two things that temper that thought: 1) The Bears haven't executed to their potential yet... While we've seen flashes of that potential, it hasn't all clicked at the same time. Early on, the rushing attack looked somewhat anemic, but as the offensive line has gelled over the past few games and Terence Williams and Seth Russell found their legs, it's looked much, much stronger. But then, as that happens, the passing attack struggles. There are outstanding questions about Seth's arm after his neck injury that nobody seems to quite be able to figure out. Additionally, it's seemed like he and the receivers have struggled to get on the same page at times this season. The WRs remain extremely dangerous, but until they get it figured out, it remains up in the air.
But, I think that the other point may be more important... 2) We're talking about TCU and Baylor. It's a rivalry game. No matter the circumstances, these two teams always rise to the occasion of the Revivalry (or whatever it's called). While the rhetoric has been dialed down a touch since the departure of Briles and the apparent friendship between the Coaches Grobe and Patterson, my guess is that both teams will be ready to play on Saturday and it will be a tight, exciting affair as is usually is (that is, if you can call playing football in a giant mudpie during a freezing monsoon exciting).
2) Jim Grobe has managed to lead the Bears to a 6-1 record, even though you guys haven't played anyone really good, it's still relatively impressive to keep the program together and winning. What are your thoughts on what he's done so far this season?
Well, to start, Coach Grobe won himself eternal respect in my book for agreeing to step into what amounts to one of the hardest situations I can even think of. I appreciate his candidness at times, even if it's gotten him into a bit of trouble now and again. He didn't have to take the job, but he volunteered to put whatever plans he had on hold to come in and take over a team that could have fractured and completely fallen apart. He appears to have fully won the respect of what could have been a hostile coaching staff (seeing that they just lost their leader, etc.) as well as the players. What they've accomplished this year is admirable, regardless of what happens the rest of the way. He's kept the team (mostly) focused on the goal.
This may be really strange, but I think the biggest on-the-field impact that Grobe has had is in the area of Special Teams. It's become something of a running joke for Baylor that special teams are a joke and field position doesn't matter; also that Baylor would be good to give up at least one big runback on a punt or kickoff per game. Grobe has cleaned that up in a big way. Outside of field goals (hashtag college kickers), Baylor's special teams play has been spectacular. Kickoff and punt coverage has been really, really good.. Something Baylor fans are entirely unused to seeing. I credit Grobe for the change there.
3) What do you think the future of this program is going forward?
This season: I think that the season stands on the edge of a knife. Right now the Bears control their own destiny (note: I'm talking Big 12 here, NOT CFP. I don't see them making that). If they lose to TCU, they face OU next week in Norman and are looking at a potential 3-game losing streak, and things could tumble out of control. On the other hand, a victory over TCU would keep them heading in the right direction, and I don't think a loss at OU would derail that direction too much.
Long-term: All eyes are on the first week of December when Baylor looks to hire its next head coach. The future trajectory depends entirely on that hire and what that person is able to accomplish between the hire date and National Signing Day in February. Right now the Bears have a grand total of TWO commits in the 2017 class, so whoever takes over is going to be extremely busy from the word go. Will they be able to land some last-minute commits and put together a recruiting class? Will they go the JUCO route to fill in holes and start building for the future with the 2018 class? It will be a wild few months. Who the next head coach will be depends largely on the coaching carousel landscape come December. My personal coaching wish list changes on a regular basis, but my personal top 4 (in no order, and with no regard for realism) would be Chad Morris, Tom Herman, PJ Fleck and Larry Fedora.
4) Who is one offensive player, other than the usual suspects (Linwood, Cannon, Russell) and one defensive player that TCU fans should look out for in this one?
Offense: Terence Williams, no question. We like to say that he runs angry, in that he doesn't mind trucking defenders whenever possible. Even his gait while he runs looks angry. He had the most success of the RBs against Texas, and is rapidly becoming one of my favorite players on the team.
Defense: Travon Blanchard. He's been one of the leaders of this defense, stepping up and making plays when needed.
5) Who are some TCU players that you think are going to cause problems for the Bears this weekend?
I'm really interested to see how healthy Kyle Hicks is. I know he's been hobbled by an ankle(?) injury, but he's been cleared to play this week and will be a threat. I'll be interested to see how he does both in the running and passing game. My guess is that Baylor will try to shut down the rushing attack and make TCU one-dimensional through the air. Your big WRs are a threat (Taj Williams, Emanuel Porter, Jaelan Austin) because while speedy, our corners are undersized. They've been extremely good at preventing big plays, though, which will be an interesting matchup. I'd also say that KaVontae Turpin's elusiveness in open field could cause trouble if he can find the space. Plus his name is awesome.
6) In my opinion, both of our teams aren't very good. Baylor still has to play the top teams in the conference, and TCU has found itself in a recent trend of losing really close games that it should win. How do you think both teams will finish out the season?
Like I said above, I could see it going either way for the Bears the rest of the way. If they lose to TCU, I think it's possible that they could win 0 or 1 more game in the regular season. I think a 3-2 finish is likely the most realistic outcome. If they figure out some of their struggles and things start to gel, I could also see them winning out (I don't think it will happen, but it's not an impossible scenario). The biggest challenges after TCU are both on the road against Oklahoma and West Virginia. They play the Mountaineers in Morgantown on December 3rd.
As for TCU, the road may be tough to become bowl eligible, but a victory over Baylor would go a long way towards making it happen. If they lose to Baylor, they've got to find two wins against Oklahoma State, Texas, and K-State. I think it's absolutely doable.
7) Do you think that Kenny is Trill? How would you compare his play so far to that of Seth Russell?
Uggggggggghhhhhhhhhh... Thanks a pant load, Aggies, for that nickname. Both have been fairly inconsistent. While Kenny has nearly 1,000 more yards than Seth, he's thrown the ball nearly a hundred times more than Seth has, with double the interceptions and fewer touchdowns. That said, his completion percentage is higher, and I think part of that is simply the system. Baylor's spread is built to make maximum use of the power run game, and that's been a difference maker for the Bears. There are serious questions about how Seth's injury last season impacted his throwing ability... He's less accurate down the field as he was last season. That being said, he's lost none of his confidence in his legs. He runs with authority and is really fast, even if it doesn't look like it when he runs. It's something that Baylor fans are still getting used to, given his injury last season. Kenny Hill is no slouch on the ground, either, and his mobility scares me for Saturday.
8) Let me hear your verdict. How is this game going to play out, and who do you have winning?
I think it's going to be a close game. I said on our podcast last night that I think Baylor ends up covering the spread, perhaps in backdoor fashion. But I have very little confidence in that prediction. The one constant of this matchup is that it's never predictable. I expect an intense, hard-fought battle of a game. The spread's what, 7.5? I'll say 42-34 Bears, with a late touchdown in the 4th quarter sealing it for Baylor. Again, zero confidence in that prediction at this point, though.
Not so Serious
9) Did Dez catch it?
OF COURSE HE DID. But, because he failed to adopt the ball as his child and carry it around with him to this day, I guess the refs didn't think he completed the process of the catch. The question, "What is a catch?" is one of the great philosophical conundrums of our time.
10) Favorite non-Baylor, TCU game of the past several years?
Oooooh, GOOD QUESTION. I have 3 that rotate in my mind and I can't ever decide between them. Baylor-KState 2012 (where KSU was #1 and nobody thought Baylor would win), Baylor-OU 2013 (first Baylor blackout game) or Baylor-Texas 2013 (clinched first Big 12 title in conditions referred to as "ice fog").
11) Favorite non Baylor player in all of college football?
This is the cliché answer, I know, but probably Lamar Jackson this season. I have to say, despite the fact that I'm supposed to hate TCU, last year it was Trevone Boykin. When he wasn't playing Baylor, he was incredibly fun to watch.
12) Best thing to do in Waco when visiting?
GO TO THE BAYLOR-TCU GAME, OF COURSE! Apparently lots of people like Magnolia Market (I've not been, but I do enjoy Fixer Upper). If you're not a Fixer Upper fan, I'd say the best thing to do is eat. George's and Viteks are probably the most famous places. There's a huge number of excellent hole-in-the-wall burger joints also.
One more thing... I want to say that while TCU is supposed to be Baylor's most hated rivalry and we're supposed to all be enemies and whatnot, I can say that I personally have appreciated the interactions I've had with the vast majority of the Horned Frogs faithful the last several months. It's been incredibly difficult to be a Baylor fan as we've watched things unfold, and where other fanbases have been pouring it on, I feel like things have gotten far more civil between Bears and Frogs fans on social media. I, for one, have really appreciated that. There's been an element of understanding or sympathy that's come from our brethren in purple, and I've really appreciated that. We'll hate each other on Saturday, sure, but for now, I just wanted to say this. Thank you.
- Big thanks to Peter for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Geaux Frogs everyone!