2009 CFN Baylor Preview
Baylor QB Robert Griffin
Baylor QB Robert Griffin
Posted May 9, 2009

While Baylor might have gone 4-8 last year, this is the "it" team going into the season thanks to Robert Griffin, the fastest quarterback in college football. Will all the experience and all the speed matter in the Big 12 South? Check out the CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Baylor Preview.

Baylor Bears

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

- 2009 CFN Baylor Preview | 2009 Baylor Offense
- 2009 Baylor Defense | 2009 Baylor Depth Chart
- 2008 Baylor Preview | 2007 Baylor Preview | 2006 Baylor Preview

Interested in blogging about Baylor football?  Let us know

Head coach: Art Briles
2nd year: 4-8
9th season overall: 38-36
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22 Def. 24, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best BU Players
1. QB Robert Griffin, So.
2. LB Joe Pawelek, Sr.
3. FS Jordan Lake, Sr.
4. DT Phil Taylor, Jr.
5. WR Kendall Wright, Soph.
6. C J.D. Walton, Sr.
7. LB Antonio Jones, Sr.
8. LB Antonio Johnson, Jr.
9.P Derek Epperson, Jr.
10. S Jeremy Williams, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 4-8
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 at Wake Forest
9/19 Connecticut
9/26 Northwestern State
10/3 Kent State
10/10 at Oklahoma
10/17 at Iowa State
10/24 Oklahoma State
10/31 Nebraska
11/7 at Missouri
11/14 Texas
11/21 at Texas A&M
11/28 Texas Tech

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 4-8

9/30 W Forest L 41-13
9/6 NW State W 51-6
9/13 Wash St W 45-17
9/19 at Conn L 31-28
10/4 Oklahoma L 49-17
10/11 Iowa St W 38-10
10/18 at Okla St L 34-6
10/25 at Nebr. L 32-20
11/1 Missouri L 31-28
11/8 at Texas L 45-21
11/15 Tex A&M W 41-21
11/29 at T Tech L 35-28

Get ready for Baylor to be the “it” team in a division full of “it” teams.

After years of being a doormat and an automatic Big 12 W, there are signs of life for the woebegone program thanks to the never-ending optimism by second-year head coach Art Briles, the thrill of the fastest quarterback in college football, Robert Griffin, and a defense that returns nine starters, not including Penn State transfer Phil Taylor, one of the best new tackles in the Big 12.

However, before handing over the Big 12 title to a team and a program that hasn’t had a winning record since 1995, back when it was in the Southwest Conference, and hasn’t seen a bowl game since the 1994 Alamo Bowl, there’s a little thing call reality that might spoil the fun.

Yes, the team really has improved to the point where it’ll be more than just a competitive foe for the big boys, and yes, there are some major playmakers. Griffin will drive everyone nuts, and LB Joe Pawelek and FS Jordan Lake might be the Big 12’s best at their respective positions, but Baylor doesn’t play in the Big East or even the Big Ten. Oh yeah, the Big 12 South.

Texas didn’t pack up shop and quit playing football. Oklahoma didn’t give up the program after losing yet another BCS game. Oklahoma State is going to be even better, Texas A&M will be improved, and Texas Tech, even with all the big losses, will still be solid. Again, that doesn’t mean Baylor can’t be competitive, it battled hard in close losses to Missouri and Texas Tech and blasted Texas A&M, but it also lost to OU and Texas by a combined score of 94 to 38. There were only four wins, with one coming against FCS’s Northwestern State, a Washington State team that was among the worst Pac 10 teams ever, an Iowa State team that went 2-10, and a miserable Texas A&M team, and all four wins were at home.

That doesn’t mean there can’t be enough of an improvement to be an Iowa State or a rebuilding Missouri on the road, and there could be a home upset of a team like Nebraska or Connecticut at home. Now the program has speed, athleticism, and something it didn’t have in the past, major-league talents, to be a team that everyone will want to see and teams will have to pay attention to.

Griffin alone will be worth the price of admission, while there’s a track team assembled in the receiving corps and there’s experience all across the board. Yes, there is a ceiling on what the team will be able to do, but that doesn’t mean it can’t go bowling, and that certainly doesn’t mean Oklahoma and Texas will be able to rest easy.

What to look for on offense: More passing. With a speed-racer like Griffin under center, especially in his true freshman season, the offense relied mostly on running him as much as possible while keeping the passing game relatively safe. Now, with a veteran receiving corps, led by basketball-playing sophomore Kendall Wright, and with a smart, quick-study like Griffin, the offense will open things up a bit more and push the ball down the field on a regular basis.  

What to look for on defense: Phil Taylor. The defense wasn’t all that bad considering it played in the pinball machine of a conference, but it didn’t do any one thing all that well outside of take the ball away. With nine returning starters, and several good athletes and big hitters, there will be a ton of takeaways once again, but the real story will be up the middle of the defense with 335-pound Penn State transfer Phil Taylor clogging everything up. He’s the type of defensive talent the program hasn’t had in a long, long time up front, and he should instantly make the defense even better.
This team will be much better if… comes up with a third down stop. Baylor was 112th in the nation at getting teams off the field, giving up a whopping 49% of all third down conversions. By comparison, Florida State led the nation allowing third down conversions 25.8% of the time, while USC allowed 27.6% of conversions. The Bears lost the time of possession battles 32:05 to 27:55, and the inability to get the high-octane Big 12 offenses was part of the reason why.

The Schedule:
There are some sneaky tough games against Wake Forest and Connecticut in non-conference play to go along with the layups against Northwestern State and Kent State. To have any hope of going bowling, the Bears have to go at least 3-1 before dealing with the start of Big 12 play against Oklahoma on the road. Iowa State would be one of the winnable games on the conference slate, but it's made tougher by being on the road. If nothing else, Baylor could be a major fly in the ointment for teams like Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Texas, and Texas Tech all coming to Waco.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Robert Griffin. He’s the face of the franchise in the resurgence, actually, the surgence (not a word but it applies) to the Baylor program. With his tremendous speed, ability to pick things up in an instant, and his caretaking of the ball in the passing game, he’s a smooth, dangerous playmaker who’ll give Baylor a chance in every game.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Joe Pawelek. One of the Big 12’s best linebackers over the last few years, he added a new dimension to his game last season by being stronger in pass coverage. While he might not have the raw measurables, he hits everything that comes anywhere near him and he makes plays all over the field. Free safety Jordan Lake might own the secondary, but this is Pawelek’s defense.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DT Phil Taylor. The 6-4, 355-pound transfer from Penn State is the type of all-around defender who can be an anchor for a run defense and a regular in the backfield. Baylor hasn’t had a tackle this good in a long, long time and he could singlehandedly make a not-that-bad Bear defense fantastic.

The season will be a success if ... the Bears get to a bowl game. It’s time. After last year’s breakthrough year, at least in terms of excitement, it’s time the program takes another step considering there’s speed and experience on both sides of the ball, a player like Griffin to work the offense around, and the strength up the middle of the defense. The schedule doesn’t work out well and there will have to be a few big upsets to get to six wins, but the team is in place to do it.

Key game: Oct. 24 vs. Oklahoma State. The Bears weren’t even in the game against the Cowboys last year losing 34-6, but this year needs to be different. The Cowboys might be the Big 12’s third best team (behind Texas and Oklahoma), but Baylor needs to show the league and the college football world that things have changed enough to win a big home game like this. Schedule-wise there isn’t a gimme in the bunch from this game on, and BU needs to start on the right track.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Time of possession: Opponents 32:05 – Baylor 27:55
- Third down conversions: Opponents
84-of-171 (49%) – Baylor 53-of-144 (37%)
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 17-of-21 (81%) – Baylor 16-of-28 (57%)

- 2009 CFN Baylor Preview | 2009 Baylor Offense
- 2009 Baylor Defense | 2009 Baylor Depth Chart
- 2008 Baylor Preview | 2007 Baylor Preview | 2006 Baylor Preview