2008 CFN Baylor Preview
Baylor OT Jason Smith
Baylor OT Jason Smith
Posted Apr 18, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Baylor Bears

Baylor Bears

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Baylor Preview | 2008 Baylor Offense

- 2008 Baylor Defense | 2008 Baylor Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Baylor Preview | 2006 CFN Baylor Preview 

It's not that Baylor finished last in the Big 12 South and finished with an eight game losing streak, neither one was a particular shock; it's that the team wasn't even remotely close.

Former head coach Guy Morriss tried his tail off to turn around a program that's on par with Duke and Vanderbilt as one of the most difficult in the BCS to succeed at, and instead the team got worse.

Head coach: Art Briles
1st season at Baylor
8th season overall: 34-28
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 25, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best BU Players
1. OT Jason Smith, Sr.
2. LB Joe Pawelek, Jr.
3. FS Jordan Lake, Jr.
4. DT Vincent Rhodes, Sr.
5. DE Jason Lamb, Jr.
6. OT Dan Gay, Sr.
7. CB Dwain Crawford, Sr.
8. NT Trey Bryant, Jr.
9. RB Jay Finley, Soph.
10. QB Blake Szymanski, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Wake Forest
Sept. 6 Northwestern State
Sept. 13 Washington State
Sept. 19 at Connecticut
Sept. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 Oklahoma
Oct. 11 Iowa State
Oct. 18 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 25 at Nebraska
Nov. 1 Missouri
Nov. 8 at Texas
Nov. 15 Texas A&M
Nov. 29 at Texas Tech

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 3-9

Sept. 1 at TCU L 27-0
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

Okay, so that still doesn’t seem like a lot, but with a non-conference schedule that includes Texas State and Buffalo, a continued improvement in league play would mean a bowl game for the first time in 13 years, while finalizing one of the better building jobs done in college football.

How bad did things get? Baylor lost its eight Big 12 games by a total of 353 to 108, or an average of 44 to 13.5. The best showing was against Colorado in a 43-23 home loss. In other words, the Bears weren't even close to being competitive, and for all Morriss was able to do, a change was needed.

Yeah, Baylor might be a tough place to win, but so is Stanford, Northwestern and Indiana, and those three have had success in the not too distant past. Former Houston head man Art Briles could be the one to bring about the right attitude change, but more importantly, he could be the one who figures out how to get the team to a bowl game for the first time since it joined the Big 12.

This is a tough season to make some big noise considering the Big 12 South could be the most competitive in the country, and while BU should be better, it might not matter a whole heck of a lot considering Oklahoma is national title-good, Texas Tech might have its best team ever, Texas is still going to be solid, and Oklahoma State and Texas A&M should be bowling. To make some noise, Baylor will have to be nearly perfect at times in the passing game, and it's going to have to score.

Defense will always be an issue for Baylor, but there's no reason, under Briles, that the offense can't start cranking out some big numbers. Efficiency will be the key, balance would be nice, and points, as basic as it might sound, are going to have to start coming.

Briles actually believes he can make Baylor a success. It's not going to happen overnight like he thinks it can, but he can certainly make the team more of a battler. Baylor can't be an automatic win on everyone's schedule anymore.

What to look for on offense: A quarterback battle that might not ever really be settled. It's a four-man race for the starting gig with the final decision to determine the team's philosophy. If it wants to win right now, Miami transfer Kirby Freeman or junior Blake Szymanski, who was the main man last year, will get the nod. Neither one will scare anybody and they're not going to be around if and when the program gets to the point of being good. True freshman Robert Griffin is young and needs a ton of seasoning, but he's also the Big 12's fastest quarterback and he could be the face of the program for the next four years.  

What to look for on defense: The defense to be better in a 4-3. The 4-2-5 alignment of last year did nothing to play up to the scheme. The extra defensive back didn't help the pass defense, and the athleticism in the back seven didn't make the run defense any better. While the third linebacker is really going to be a safety who'll change his position name, the coaching staff is trying to make the defense more physical and force more big plays.
This team will be much better if… it wins the turnover battle. The Bears were dead last in America in turnover margin giving it away 37 times, the most turnovers by anyone, and only forcing 19 takeaways. Baylor simply isn't good enough to make mistakes, and not get back several in return. One big concern is that last year's Houston team also stunk in the turnover margin giving it away 30 times.

The Schedule:
Briles isn't going to have it easy. For most teams, facing Wake Forest, Washington State and at Connecticut wouldn't be that bad, but those three will be tough for a still-improving Bear team. After a week off there are home dates against Oklahoma (bad) and Iowa State (good) before three road games in four weeks going to Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Texas. The home game in that stretch is against Missouri. Closing out at Texas Tech should be a fun shootout, but it likely will mean a bad end to the year.

Best Offensive Player: Senior OT Jason Smith. The former tight end has grown into a whale of a pass blocker. Hurt for most of last year, he still earned all-star recognition and will now be the team's top pro prospect. It took him a little while to grow into his job, but now he's one of the Big 12's best and will combine with Dan Gay to keep the quarterback clean.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Joe Pawelek. While not all that big and not all that fast, Pawelek is great at getting to the ball and tackles everything that moves. A big-time stat producer, he now has to be even more of a disruptive force in the backfield and in pass coverage. For one of the Big 12's best linebackers, that shouldn't be hard. He doesn't make mistakes and he hits like a ton of bricks.

Key player to a successful season: Junior WR David Gettis. The quarterback situation will work itself out and there are good options in the backfield to get the running game going. Now there has to be a more threatening wide receiver after a running back and two tight ends accounted for the top three receivers of last year. Gettis was a big recruit for the program a few years ago and has yet to live up to his potential. Under the new coaching staff, he could blossom into the type of dangerous target the passing game desperately needs.

The season will be a success if ... BU is competitive. The Bears won't go to a bowl and this won't be a winning season, but they have to take a big step towards getting to those goals. In a great year for the Big 12, it could be tough to make too much noise, but the Bears have to shorten the ten-mile wide gap between them and the rest of the conference. They have to prove they belong.

Key game: Oct. 11 vs. Iowa State. It's not a stretch to call this Baylor's one reasonable chance at a Big 12 win. This is the one decent home game of the bunch, and any wins over anyone else would be a major upset. A loss to the Cyclones would be devastating with three road games in the following four weeks to Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Texas. The home game to break up those dates? Missouri.

2007 Fun Stats: 
 - Second half scoring: Opponents 232 – Baylor 103
 - Rushing TDs: Opponents 29 – Baylor 5
 - Average yards per punt return: Opponents 16.3 – Baylor 8.1