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2007 Baylor Bears

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 21, 2008


2007 Baylor Bears Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More


 
2007 Baylor Bears

Recap: Once again, the Big 12’s most predictable program couldn’t stray from its time-tested script, finishing below .500 for the 12th straight season, and running its conference losing streak to 12 games.  Beyond just the mounting losses, Baylor was never even competitive once the non-league portion of the schedule ended, a key factor in head coach Guy Morriss’ ouster after five seasons in Waco.  The Bears became effective at winging the ball all over the field, but turnovers too often stalled promising drives in enemy territory.         

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Blake Szymanski

Defensive Player of the Year: S Jordan Lake

Biggest Surprise: The Bears peaked in Week 4, nabbing a rare road victory at Buffalo, 34-21.  Getting to 3-1 behind the passing and running of Szymanski, Baylor gave a brief hint of hope to those long-suffering fans pining for a postseason game.

Biggest Disappointment: Baylor should have been more competitive when it traveled to Manhattan to face a reeling Kansas State team, but instead, got hammered by 38 points.  Seven turnovers, a year-long problem, nixed any hopes the Bears had of snapping a four-game losing streak that would reach eight games when the regular season ended.

Looking Ahead: Next in line to try and stop the bleeding at Baylor is Art Briles, who did a nice job at Houston, and is a respected figure in the state of Texas.  Although he’ll be aiming to supercharge the offense, the young defense offers more short term stability with improving players, such as Lake, LB Joe Pawelek, and DE Jason Lamb.

- 2007 Baylor Preview
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2006 Baylor Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
3-9
2007 Record: 3-9

Sept. 1 at TCU L 27-0
Sept.8
Rice W 42-17
Sept. 15 Texas St W 34-27
Sept. 22 at Buffalo W 34-21
Sept. 29 at Texas A&M L 34-10
Oct. 6 Colorado L 43-23
Oct. 13 at Kansas L 58-10
Oct. 20 Texas L 31-10
Oct. 27 at Kansas State L 51-13
Nov. 3 Texas Tech L 38-7
Nov. 10 at Oklahoma L 52-21
Nov. 17 Oklahoma State L 52-17

Nov. 17
Oklahoma State 52 ... Washington State 17
OSU ran for 352 yards but it was Zac Robinson who did a little of everything with two touchdown passes and scoring runs from 18 and four yards out. Dantrell Savage scored from four and two yards out to turn things into a blowout in the second half. Baylor got within 14 with the second of two Thomas White touchdown catches, but the offense couldn't get going after halftime. Nathan Peterson came up with three sacks for the Cowboys.

Player of the game: Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson completed 16 of 21 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 17 times for 144 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: Oklahoma State - Passing: Zac Robinson, 16-21, 202 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Zac Robinson, 17-144, 2 TD. Receiving: Seth Newton, 4-62, 1 TD
Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanski, 29-40, 226 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Brandon Whitaker, 11-79. Receiving: Thomas White, 9-68, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
After failing to turn the program around, or even in the right direction with an 0-8 Big 12 record this year and eight straight losses to close out, the Guy Morriss era has officially come to an end. He gave it a run by trying to crank out Texas Tech's spread passing offense, but it never quite clicked. The team is build around passing the ball, but the next coach will first have to figure out how to stop the run in order to be more competitive in Big 12 play.

Nov. 10
Oklahoma 52 ... Baylor 21
DeMarco Murray ran for scores from 25, one and 21 yards out, and returned a kickoff 91 yards for a score as Oklahoma blew past a Baylor team that got its offense rolling. Brandon Whitaker tore off a 46-yard run to get the Bears on the board first, and then the Sooners bounced back with 21 straight points on two of Murray's scoring runs and a 51-yard Malcolm Kelly touchdown. Baylor kept pushing with a 75-yard Thomas White scoring catch, but Murray ended the drama with his kickoff return for a score in the final minute of the first half. OU put it away in the third quarter on Manuel Johnson touchdown catches from 60 and 13 yards.
Player of the game: Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray ran 13 times for 95 yards and three touchdowns, caught two passes for 19 yards, and returned three kickoffs for 91 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanski, 25-42, 280 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Brandon Whitaker, 15-149, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon Whitaker, 10-68
Oklahoma - Passing: Sam Bradford, 20-25, 353 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
DeMarco Murray, 13-96, 3 TD. Receiving: Manuel Johnson, 4-126, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Baylor might have gotten blown out by Oklahoma when the final numbers came up, but this wasn't a bad performance. There was actually some pop to the running game, Blake Szymanski got some plays going down the field, and the offense was able to even grab a little bit of momentum. The surges might have only lasted a play or two, but it still was a seven day with 450 yards of offense. Still, BU is on a seven-game losing streak and has to far more to keep up with a desperate Oklahoma State next week.

Nov. 3
Texas Tech 38 ... Baylor 7
Graham Harrell threw for 433 yards and three touchdowns with two to Aaron Crawford from 17 and seven yards out, and Crawford scored on runs from three and seven yards away as Texas Tech got up 38-0 in the third quarter. Baylor finally got on the board with a Brandon Whitaker touchdown catch, but it was far too little, too late. The Red Raiders outgained the Bears 563 yards to 282 and 490 passing yards to 191.
Player of the game: Texas Tech RB Aaron Crawford ran nine times for 44 yards and two touchdowns, and caught ten passes for 82 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: Texas Tech - Passing: Graham Harrell, 37-46, 433 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Aaron Crawford, 9-44, 2 TD. Receiving: Aaron Crawford, 10-82, 2 TD
Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanski, 25-31, 191 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Jacoby Jones, 21-83. Receiving: Thomas White, 7-58

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Blake Szymanski is back after having problems with headaches, and while he wasn't explosive against Texas Tech, he was efficient on short-to-midrange passes. He just didn't lead the way to any meaningful points. The running game isn't even a though this late in the year, and the receivers aren't making any plays with the ball in their hands to make up for the problems. Things don't get much better next week against Oklahoma unless BU starts to bomb away deeper.

Oct. 27
Kansas State 51 ... Baylor 13
Kansas State forced seven turnovers and got three touchdown passes and two touchdown runs from Josh Freeman in the easy win. Jordy Nelson caught a six-yard touchdown pass and put a cap on the scoring with a 92-yard punt return for a score. The Wildcats scored the first 16 points of the game on a one-yard Freeman run and three Brooks Rossman field goals, and then Baylor made it interesting for a few minutes with a 52-yard Thomas White touchdown catch, the first of two scores on the day. The Wildcats bounced back with a 22-yard Deon Murphy scoring play, and the blowout was on.
Player of the game: Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson caught eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdowns, and returned a punt 92 yards for a score
Stat Leaders: Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanski, 15-21, 213 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jacoby Jones, 6-28. Receiving: Thomas White, 4-118, 2 TD
Kansas State - Passing: Josh Freeman, 22-33, 247 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Leon Patton, 17-113. Receiving: Jordy Nelson, 8-105, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The quarterback situation needs addressing in a big way. Michael Machen isn't the answer, having way too many problems hanging on to the ball and doing nothing to get the offense moving. With three games left, he's not the answer and it's time to start building for next year. Blake Szymanski is the one to build around, but he's having medical issues with headaches. Even so, he threw well with 213 yards and two touchdowns. Now he has to get healthy. There's not even the pretense of a running game at the moment.

Oct. 20
Texas 31 ... Baylor 10
Texas was down 7-3 late in the first half after Thomas White caught a 17-yard touchdown pass, but then the defense kicked it in with a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown from Nate Jones to start a 28-3 scoring run. It wasn't easy, even after short touchdown runs from Chris Ogbonnaya and Vondrell McGee made it 24-10. Down 14 with six minutes to play, Baylor was driving deep, but Marcus Griffin picked off a Michael Machen pass and took it 91 yards for a touchdown to seal the win. Texas outgained the Bears 177 to 8 on the ground.
Player of the game: Texas DB Marcus Griffin made six tackles and two interceptions with one for a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 25-34, 293 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 16-56. Receiving: Nate Jones, 6-72, 1 TD
Baylor - Passing: Michael Machen, 25-44, 231 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing:
Jay Finley, 8-23. Receiving: Justin Akers, 9-77

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...  For giving up 470 yards of total offense, the Baylor defense did a surprisingly good job against Texas of not letting the game get out of hand. Unfortunately, Michael Machen, who can bomb the ball but throws a ton of picks, couldn't quite get the offense over the hump when the game was still up in the air. Bear quarterbacks threw four interceptions and for yet another game, didn't get enough downfield plays. The game was closer than 31-10, but it's still a fourth straight loss with a road trip to Kansas State coming up.

Oct. 13
Kansas 58 ... Baylor 10
A lightning storm delayed the game, but Kansas didn't have problems as it got out to a 31-3 halftime lead, highlighted by an 88-yard Marcus Herford kickoff return for a score coming off a 35-yard Caleb Allen field goal. Todd Reesing threw two touchdown passes, including a  54-yarder to Marcus Henry, and Scott Webb added three field goals. The Jayhawk defense forced five turnovers and only allowed three points, with the Bears getting their only touchdown on a 97-yard David Gettis kickoff return for a score late in the third.
Player of the game: Kansas RB Jake Sharp ran 18 times for 110 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Kansas - Passing: Todd Reesing, 14-31, 186 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Jake Sharp, 18-110, 1 TD. Receiving: Derek Fine, 4-36
Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanski, 18-33, 119 yds, 3 INT
Rushing:
Brandon Whitaker, 12-54. Receiving:
Brandon Whitaker, 7-45
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...  The Bears are supposed to be built to bomb away with anyone, and they're supposed to have the type of offense to freak everyone out with the potential to throw for 400 yards. That only works if the short plays are taken for big gains, and right now, the Bear receivers aren't doing that. Against Kansas, the BU QBs threw 43 times and only picked up 154 yards through the air. With no hint of a running game, that can't happen this far into the Guy Morriss era.

Oct. 6
Colorado 43 ... Baylor 23
Kevin Eberhart hit field goals from 41, 44, 54, 42 and 30, and Cody Hawkins threw two first half touchdown passes as Colorado rolled to an easy win. The Buffs got up 17-0 early on a seven-yard Demetrius Sumler touchdown catch, and answered a Baylor field goal with a three-yard Sumler run. Sumler also added a two-yard score  in the second half to help CU go up 40-9, before the Bears got a few late scores. The two teams combined for 21 penalties for 176 yards.
Player of the game: Colorado QB Cody Hawkins went 17-of-26 for 293 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Stat Leaders: Colorado - Passing: Cody Hawkins, 17-26, 293 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Hugh Charles, 20-122. Receiving: Dusty Sprague, 5-95, 1 TD
Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanski, 36-60, 410 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing:
Brandon Whitaker, 11-26, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon Whitaker, 11-166
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The team is built to come up with big comebacks when needed, but despite throwing for 410 yards, the Bears were never in the loss to Colorado and got most of their yards well after the fact. While the defense did a great job of stopping several drives and forcing field goals, it was 30-9 at halftime and the game was over. Turnovers turned the game into a rout, and to have any prayer against Kansas and Texas over the next two weeks, the mistakes, including the penalties, have to stop.

Sept. 29
Texas A&M 34 ... Baylor 10
Texas A&M rumbled for 352 rushing yards, controlling the clock for 43:18, with Jorvorskie Lane rushing for a one-yard score, Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson adding short fourth quarter rushing touchdowns, and Mike Goodson taking a pass 58 yards for a touchdown. Baylor didn't move the ball well, but it got a Jay Finley three-yard touchdown run in the fourth to pull within ten. The A&M defense clamped down from there, and the running game kept the chains moving, converting 11 of 19 third down chances.
Player of the game: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee went 16-of-28 for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while rushing 17 times for 110 yards and another score.
Stat Leaders: Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanksi, 12-35, 194 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Brandon Whitaker, 6-26. Receiving: David Gettis, 2-88
Texas A&M - Passing: Stephen McGee, 16-28, 200 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Jorvorskie Lane, 24-123, 1 TD. Receiving: Keondra Smith, 4-6
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... You can't score if you don't have the ball, and Baylor failed to hang on to it for extended stretches against Texas A&M. Blake Szymanski wasn't under a lot of pressure, but he didn't have too many easy throws to make, and he almost never game up with a key pass to keep drives alive. If the passing game isn't controlling the clock, especially against a team like A&M, there are going to be huge problems. Next up is a sky-high Colorado team that's great at hitting and applying pressure. Baylor will need to be far sharper.

Sept. 22
Baylor 34 ... Buffalo 21
Baylor took a 10-0 lead on the first of Blake Szymanski's three touchdown passes, hitting Justin Akers from four yards out, but didn't put it away until the third quarter on a nine-yard Krys Buerck touchdown catch and a Brandon Whitaker two-yard scoring grab. Buffalo's offense struggled to get going, but it was able to take advantage of the short field twice, finishing with two James Starks scores. Starks added a third score on a one-yard run with 1:21 to play.
Player of the game: Baylor QB Blake Szymanski went 21-of-45 for 172 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and ran 11 times for 91 yards and another score.
Stat Leaders: Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanksi, 21-45, 172 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Blake Szymanksi, 11-91, 1 TD. Receiving: Justin Akers, 7-74, 1 TD
Buffalo - Passing: Drew Willy, 29-46, 276 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs
Rushing:
James Starks, 14-62, 2 TDs. Receiving: Naam Roosevelt, 6-79
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Baylor's offense gets all the attention, and it did a good job against Buffalo, but it was the defense that dominated the game with five takeaways. The Bulls only got 87 rushing yards, and didn't generate enough offense to overcome the mistakes, and that was due to the play of the BU linebackers. Joe Pawelek had a whale of a game. Now the defense has to come up with the same sort of production against Texas A&M next week to have any sort of a chance against the pounding ground game.

Sept. 15
Baylor 34 ... Texas State 27
It took a while for Baylor to finally get comfortable, but five touchdown passes from Blake Szymanski kept Texas State just out of reach. Szymanski connected with five different receivers for scores, with his 23-yard pass to Brad Taylor late in the fourth finally giving the Bears some breathing room. TSU got two touchdown passes from Bradley George, and two Andrew Ireland field goals, but couldn't get closer than four in the second half. The Bears answered a 46-yard Ireland shot with a 65-yard drive culminating in a 24-yard Finley touchdown catch to pull away for good.
Player of the game: Baylor QB Blake Szymanski completed 30 of 50 passes for 411 yards and five touchdowns and two interceptions
Stat Leaders: Texas State - Passing: Bradley George, 30-55, 322 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Bradley George, 10-25. Receiving: Cameron Luke, 8-135 1 TD
Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanski, 30-50, 411 yds, 5 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Jay Finley, 8-22. Receiving: Brad Taylor, 5-85, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Blake Szymanski is now the face of Baylor football. After throwing for 823 yards and 11 touchdowns in the last two weeks, the BU offense has finally taken off. Of course, it's easy to look great against Rice and Texas State, and likely against Buffalo coming up, but these are important games for an offense that needs all the time it can get. Szymanski is spreading the ball around well and using all his receivers; that's what layup games are for. Now it's time to start tuning up the running game that averaged just 1.5 yards per carry against Texas State.

Sept. 8
Baylor 42 ... Rice 17
Baylor QB Blake Szymanski set a school record with four first half touchdown passes, and then set another record with 412 passing yards and six scores in the blowout win. Justin Akers caught the first two scoring passes of the day, and then Szymanski hit four different receivers for scores. Rice got a 14-yard Chase Clement touchdown run along with a three-yard James Casey dash to get close, but the BU passing game proved to be too much to overcome.
Player of the game: Baylor QB Blake Szymanski went 29-of-46 for 412 yards and six touchdown passes.
Stat Leaders: Rice
- Passing: Chase Clement, 20-25, 207 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: C.J. Ugokwe, 11-30. Receiving: Jarett Dillard, 5-93
Baylor
- Passing: Blake Szymanski, 29-46, 412 yds, 6 TDs
Rushing: Brandon Whitaker, 8-34. Receiving: Brandon Whitaker, 6-27, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Now that's the way the passing game is supposed to work, getting 423 yards and six touchdowns against Rice. Baylor bombed away on the Owls with Blake Szymanski getting time to throw and find the right receivers to keep the chains moving, but it also helped that the defense was keeping the Rice offense in check so there wasn't any need for the offense to force anything. The running game even had its moments in the blowout win, but this game was all about getting the air attack rolling. 12 different players caught passes as everyone got involved, and with Texas State and Buffalo ahead before facing Texas A&M, there's even more time for fine-tuning.

Sept. 1
TCU 27 ... Baylor 0
Even without star end Tommy Blake, who was out with an undisclosed illness, TCU's defense dominated Baylor in an easy shut out win. The Bears managed just 282 yards of total offense and lost four interceptions, but their defense was solid. The Horned Frog attack took advantage of every mistake using the short fields to get touchdown runs from Justin Watts and Ryan Christian in the first quarter and a 14-yard Ervin Dickerson touchdown catch in the fourth. Chris Manfredini nailed two fourth quarter field goals.
Player of the game ... TCU LB David Hawthorne led the team with 11 tackles
Stat Leaders: Baylor - Passing: Blake Szymanski, 23-47, 216 yds, 3 INTs
Rushing: Brandon Whitaker, 12-27  Receiving: Justin Fenty, 5-35
TCU - Passing: Andy Dalton, 18-30, 205 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Joseph Turner, 9-56  Receiving: Marcus Brock, 5-47
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's not time to completely panic. TCU's defense is going to finish among the best in the nation and is sure to make most offenses look lousy, but the Baylor attack failed to do anything to impose its will on the Horned Frogs. There wasn't any semblance of a running game, despite wanting more balance after having no ground attack last year, and Blake Szymanski only threw for 216 yards on 47 attempts. Another big concern is the kicking game, as Shea Brewster missed from 20 and 35 yards. The defense wasn't bad, and it should look even better over the next three weeks against Rice, Texas State and Buffalo. Now the offense has to follow suit.

Sept. 1 – at TCU
Offense: This won't be the offense of last year that finished second in the Mountain West in yards and scoring, but it won't be bad as long as there isn't a major injury problem among the starters. The line should be the strength with three returning starters and experience to count on at the other spots. Aaron Brown is about to shine now that he doesn't have to split carries. He'll be the do-it-all back who'll be the offense until the passing game, which struggled mightily in spring, comes around. The receiving corps has potential, but it needs Donald Massey to become a number one target, and it needs the quarterback situation to be settled with Marcus Jackson, who'll likely win the job, battling with Andy Dalton.
Defense:
The Horned Frogs finished second in the nation in total defense, third in scoring defense, and led the Mountain West in several top categories. It'll be a total shock if they weren't even better. The only possible problems will come if injuries strike. Nine starters return, led by all-star ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, who make life easy for everyone else on the defense with the pressure they provide. The 4-2-5 has four good linebackers, an amazing group of safeties, rising stars at corner, and a good, active line. The only potential issue is a lack of raw bulk at tackle, but that's looking for a problem.

Sept. 8 - Rice
Offense: Todd Graham and his staff are gone, but the spread attack is alive and well at Rice, good news for an offense that returns its starting quarterback and All-American wide receiver.  Although Chase Clement to Jarett Dillard will be a familiar phrase this fall, the Owls are also developing a bunch of good-looking, young pass-catchers that are ready to contribute.  The quest for offensive balance, however, won’t be so easy now that underappreciated running back Quinton Smith has exhausted his eligibility.  Last year was a painful transition for the offensive line, but with four starters back and a full year in the system, there are no excuses for not being much better in pass protection.   
Defense: In an attempt to bolster a run defense that allowed more than 300 yards to five straight opponents in 2006, Rice is shifting from the 3-3-5 to the 4-2-5.  The move puts another big body in the box, but also puts an enormous burden on a line that lost three of last year’s best linemen to graduation.  The new scheme encourages constant pressure from a back seven that boasts the young athletes, such as junior linebacker Brian Raines and sophomore safety Andrew Sendejo, to create havoc for opposing quarterbacks.  Lost in last year’s statistically awful season was the fact that the opportunistic Owls paced Conference USA in turnovers and sacks.

Sept. 15 – Texas State

Sept. 22 – at Buffalo
Offense: The overall offensive production improved from ten points per game to 18.33. Now the attack has to be more consistent and explosive, and that all comes from the offensive line. It's a big, experienced line that has to give the promising skill players a chance to do their thing. UB can win with QB Drew Willy and RB James Starks, but they haven't had any chance to show what they can do with no time or room to work. Naaman Roosevelt has to be used somewhere. If he's not the starting quarterback, he'll provide a boost to a mediocre receiving corps.
Defense: Last year was a big transition year with several young players getting time as the scheme was switched from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3. Size is sacrificed for speed almost everyone, but there are big backups at tackle. Now the production against the run has to be better. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue as UB could be among the MAC's leaders in sacks and tackles for loss led by senior Trevor Scott on the end. The secondary has the potential to be far better if safeties Kareem Byrom and Mike Newton, along with rising corner Kendric Hawkins, can spend all their time trying to make plays against the pass instead of always having to deal with the run.


Sept. 29 – at Texas A&M
Offense: Run, run, and run some more. The Aggies finished last year eighth in the nation in rushing, and now the line should be even better with four legitimate All-Big 12 candidates paving the way for the devastating rushing tandem of Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson. QB Stephen McGee was better than anyone could've hoped for last year taking over for Reggie McNeal, and while he might not throw only two interceptions again, he'll be one of the league's best all-around quarterbacks. The tight end tandem of Martellus Bennett and Joey Thomas would get all the conference attention if it wasn't for Missouri's tremendous pair, but the receivers are suspect and could be the Achilles heel if there Earvin Taylor doesn't have a huge season.
Defense: First of all, realize what amazing strides the defense made under defensive coordinator Gary Darnell. The pass defense was the worst in the nation in 2005 and became more than just respectable last season in a 4-2-5 alignment that led to a solid year until the Holiday Bowl meltdown against Cal. There wasn't enough of a pass rush outside of Chris Harrington, but that could change if tackle Red Bryant is healthy again and occupies two blockers on the inside. There aren't any all-stars in the back seven, but it's a good, sound group that will do just enough to get by.


Oct. 6 - Colorado
Offense: Call this a stepping-stone season for the offense before it explodes in 2008. The overall production can't help but be better after averaging a Big 12-worst 291 yards and 16 points per game. There are too many ifs. If a backup can emerge behind top running back Hugh Charles, and if all the problems this spring finding healthy offensive linemen go away, and if the veteran receiving corps can prove that it's better than last season showed, and if Cody Hawkins and/or Nick Nelson can shine right away at quarterback, the Buffs should start to have the offense that Buff fans expected when Dan Hawkins was hired.
Defense: The defense was better than it every got credit for considering the offense provided no help whatsoever. The starting 11, in whatever configuration that turns out to be, should be excellent as long as a pass rush is found from the ends. The linebacking corps will be the strength with tackling-machine Jordon Dizon leading the way. George Hypolite and Brandon Nicolas form an excellent tackle tandem to work around, while Terrence Wheatley is an All-Big 12 corner to handle everyone's number one. Now there needs to be more from the secondary, and the run defense has to be as strong as it was last year despite losing key linemen Abraham Wright and Walter Boye-Doe.


Oct. 13 – at Kansas
Offense: After spending last year running the ball, new offensive coordinator Ed Warinner will try to stretch the field more with a big, experienced group of receivers. The big question will be who the quarterback will be throwing to them. Sophomores Kerry Meier and Todd Reesing are talented, mobile passers who can do a little of everything well, but they'll be in a battle for the starting job up until the opener. The other big question mark is at running back, where Jon Cornish and his 1,457 yards and eight scores will be replaced by Jake Sharp (fast) and Brandon McAnderson (powerful). The line is nothing special, but the tackles are experienced and solid.
Defense:
The defense had to go through a little bit of a rebuilding phase last season, and while the overall results weren't terrific, and too many yards were allowed, it wasn't as bad as it might have appeared. The secondary gave up more yards than anyone in America, but it gets Aqib Talib back at corner to go along with an upgrade in speed at the other three spots. The linebacking corps, by design, is small on the outside with a slew of safety-sized defenders designed to fly to the ball. They have to hold up better when they're getting pounded on. James McClinton is a star at tackle who should set the tone for the front seven.

Oct. 20 - Texas
Offense: This might be the best offense yet under head coach Mack Brown, with one bump in the road: the line. The starting five will be fine, but there's absolutely no depth at tackle. While that's the concern, the skill players will be fantastic with a deep, talented receiving corps that welcomes back the top four targets, Jamaal Charles and a speedy backfield, and Colt McCoy to lead the show. Now a seasoned veteran, McCoy will run more than last year while making more plays on the move. Expect plenty of scoring, plenty of explosiveness, and a top five finish in total offense ... as long as the line holds up.
Defense: Duane Akina goes from co-defensive coordinator to the head man in charge, and there will be changes. Last year's defense was all about stopping the run, and the talented secondary got torched. This year's D will focus on doing everything, with an eye towards being more aggressive and generating more pressure. The strength is at tackle and in the linebacking corps, with NFL caliber talent that should keep the Longhorns among the nation's leaders against the run. The ends will be fine, in time, and they'll get to pin their ears back and go to the quarterback. All the pressure should help out a secondary in transition, with only one starter returning from a group that loses Thorpe Award winner Aaron Ross and All-American Michael Griffin.

Oct. 27 – at Kansas State
Offense: Call this another stepping stone season. The offensive line is ridiculously deep, but without much appreciable talent. The receiving corps has a slew of good prospects coming in, and four good tight ends, but can only count on deep threat Jordy Nelson to deliver. The 1-2 rushing punch of Leon Patton and James Johnson is scary-good, but there's absolutely no one behind them. And then there's the quarterback situation, which was a plus going into last year with several good players in a battle, but now is Josh Freeman and no safety net. Freeman has the talent to be a superstar, but hasn't been remotely consistent. When he's not on, it's over. It's not all doom and gloom. There's a ton of athleticism, and Freeman, Patton, Johnson and Nelson will have games when they're unstoppable, just not enough of them.
Defense: Raheem Morris lasted one year as defensive coordinator before moving on to the NFL. Tim Tibesar will take over and put in a 3-4 scheme, which might, at times, appear to be more of a 4-3 with star Ian Campbell playing outside linebacker and the occasional end. There's a ton of overall experience and depth, even with just six returning starters, with the strength to likely be in the secondary, where safety Marcus Watts leads a veteran cast. While the D likely won't be sixth in the nation in sacks and 18th in tackles for loss, there will be plenty of big plays made in the backfield with all the speed and athleticism across the positions. The overall net result should be better than last year, when KSU gave up 346 yards and 24 points per game.

Nov. 3 - Texas Tech
Offense: On the surface, there might appear to be a world of problems. The quarterback situation is allegedly up for grabs, the star running back practiced like he was too secure and got booted to third string, almost all the top receivers are gone, and four starters have to be replaced on the line. Don't shed too many tears. Graham Harrell had a great spring and will be the staring quarterback once again, Shannon Woods will get back in everyone's good graces this fall and be a top back, and Michael Crabtree might be the best receiver the program has had in several years. Of course, it all goes kaput if the line doesn't come together quickly, but Mike Leach and his coaching staff have dealt with worse. There might be question marks, but there's also a whole bunch of talented prospects. This will be one of the nation's five best passing offenses once again, but it might not be consistent.
Defense: This D will be a major part in several shootouts, and not in a good way. The secondary will be the strength, and it's not even close, with a pair of all-star safeties in Darcel McBath and Joe Garcia, along with star corner Chris Parker. The front seven is a major problem, especially the defensive line, with no depth and only one starter returning. The linebacking corps isn't all that big, but it's fast and should be good in time. Expect good running teams to be able to rumble at will.

Nov. 10 – at Oklahoma
Offense: If a quarterback comes through and shines, this could be the nation's most effective offense. If the offensive line isn't the best in college football, it's number two, the running backs are very fast and very talented, and the receiving corps, led by top pro prospect Malcolm Kelly, is very big and very fast. It all comes down to the quarterback battle between junior Joey Halzle and redshirt freshman Sam Bradford. Whichever one can be steady will get the plum gig with a chance to lead the loaded attack in a national title chase.
Defense: It'll be an interesting defense that has the potential to be a killer, but has some major concerns. The secondary should be among the best in America with enough size, speed, and talent to keep the NFL scouts buzzing. DeMarcus Granger is a rising superstar tackle who should combine with Gerald McCoy, Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman to stuff up everything on the inside. If the unknown ends come though with a halfway decent season, and the untested linebacking corps is nearly as good as last year's, look out.

Nov. 17 - Oklahoma State
Offense: The potential is there for the nation's 16th best offense and seventh best scoring attack to be even better. Quarterback Bobby Reid lived up to the hype last season and proved he could be a star. While he loses a great target in D'Juan Woods, he gets Adarius Bowman back to go along with a slew of speedy but unproven receivers to stretch the field. The 1-2 rushing punch of Dantrell Savage and Keith Toston is among the fastest and most dangerous in America running behind a decent line that has experience, but will be a work in progress to find the right starting combination.
Defense: If nothing else, the defense was certainly interesting with an aggressive style that produced a ton of sacks, plenty of tackles for loss, and gave up too many big plays. New defensive coordinator Tim Beckman will tone things down a little bit while still taking the fight to the offense. The back seven will be terrific with a fantastic linebacking corps, even with top middle man Rodrick Johnson playing end and star Chris Collins trying to get through knee and off-the-field problems, while the secondary will strong as long as injuries don't hit the safeties. Experience on the line, especially at tackle, will be an issue early on, but the starting ends, Marque Fountain and Nathan Peterson, will be all-stars.



 


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