The Baylor Bears earned the trip to the Holiday Bowl after a somewhat odd season. They started off 3-0, playing cupcakes SMU, Sam Houston St., and Louisiana-Monroe, then dropped 5 out of 6 games to start off Big 12 conference play, but finished strong, winning the final 3 games, including wins over then #1 Kansas St. and solid Texas Tech and Oklahoma St. teams. Overall, Baylor is 7-5 and 4-5 in conference play.
Statistically, Baylor is essentially the same team as last year's 10-3 team. Of course, they lost Heisman winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, which probably accounts for the difference in the win-loss columns. They have one of the most explosive offenses, if not the most explosive offense, in college football, and they win by being more effective on the offensive side of the ball than their opponent. They don't play much defense at all.
Again, they were essentially the same team last year when they squared off against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. If this year's Holiday Bowl resembles that game, we're in for a wild ride. Baylor beat Washington 67-56 in one of the most outrageous bowl games ever played. The teams combined for 1397 total yards of offense and averaged nearly 9 yards per play.
When Art Briles took over as Baylor's head coach in 2008, Baylor had not gone to a bowl game in 13 seasons, which included the last season of the Southwest Conference and the entire existence of the Big 12. What he has done at Baylor is outstanding, turning a program that was previously at the bottom of the conference and turned it into legitimate contenders. This wasn't the first time that Briles turned around a program.
Briles stems from Mike Leach's coaching tree, having served as Texas Tech's running backs coach from 1999-2002. Prior to working with Leach, Briles was a famous high school coach in Stephensville, Texas. He gets a lot of credit for bringing the spread offense to the Texas high school circuit, and has always been an innovator. He took over as Houston's head coach in 2003, and nearly immediately turned around the floundering Cougar program that had been struggling under Dana Dimel.
Offensively, Baylor is special. Briles deservedly gets a lot of credit, but Philip Montgomery has done a great job as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Baylor. Montgomery has been with Briles since Briles' high school coaching days. This season, Baylor is 1st nationally in total offense with 579 ypg. They are balanced, averaging 226 ypg on the ground (18th nationally), and 353 ypg through the air (3rd nationally). To get a sense of Baylor's consistency, in 2011 Baylor averaged 587 ypg of total offense, including 235 ypg on the ground and 351 ypg through the air. Baylor averaged 44 ppg this season, and 45 ppg last season. They're a well oiled machine on offense, and they've put up these numbers despite losing their starting quarterback, running back, and leading wide receiver.
While Baylor's offense has put up phenomenal numbers, the defense has struggled. Phil Bennett has coordinated the defense for the past two seasons, and the results have been consistently bad. Baylor allows 38 ppg (117th), 514 total ypg (123rd), 191 ypg on the ground (90th) and 323 ypg through the air (122nd). The numbers were essentially the same last season, when they gave up 37 ppg, 488 total ypg, 197 ypg on the ground, and 291 ypg through the air. They don't get into the backfield very well, with only 13 sacks and 46 tackles for loss this season, but they do force a fair number of turnovers, 25 this season good for 31st nationally.
That concludes Part 1 of the Baylor preview. Feel free to fire away with any additional thoughts and comments, and be sure to check back in tomorrow for Part 2 of the preview.