The SMU Game Preview

The SMU Game Preview

It is time to fully dive into SMU and what the Bears could see on Sunday in the opener of the 2014 season.

The Baylor Bears open the 2014 season at home against the SMU Mustangs Sunday evening. It is also the inaugural game in the brand new McLane Stadium, and their first as the defending Big 12 champs. With this arguably being the most anticipated game in Baylor history, emotions are high for the players and fans as we count down the seconds till Sunday’s kickoff.

MEDIA INFORMATION
Date Sun., Aug. 31 | 6:30 p.m. CT
Location Waco, Texas | McLane Stadium (45,150)
TV FOX Sports 1
Radio ESPN Central Texas | Sirius 93 | XM 199
Online Audio Listen Online
Live Stats Gametracker
Gameday Info Gameday Central
Ticket Info Purchase Tickets
Game Notes Baylor Notes |SMU Notes
Twitter @BUFootball

Key Matchups

-Baylor Receivers versus SMU Secondary

One of the top receiving groups in the nation that has succumbed to quite a bit of late offseason injury and attrition, the Bears still have tremendous athletes all over the outside of the field. With a new secondary taking over for SMU, how the Mustangs can cover the Baylor stars like Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood will dictate how this game goes. If they back off and give help over the top, then expect some quick passes and a lot of rushes. If they jam and try and challenge the Baylor receivers at the line of scrimmage, expect some deep shots with play action right away.

-Baylor Defensive Line versus SMU Offensive Line

The Mustangs bring back 3-starters on the offensive line, but have little depth behind them. They are also a little smaller than what the Bears usually will face off against in the Big 12. With the Baylor front-4 being quite larger, and featuring a 6-foot-9 condor and one of the strongest men in football right now, the Mustangs will have to figure out how to not only protect their new QB in Neal Burcham, but get any semblance of a running game going.

Analytical Breakdown

*2013 Ranks

FEI Rank*

11

75

F/+ Rank*

7

84

S&P+ Rank*

3

82

GE Rank*

5

80

Sagarin

9

70

Massey

9

87

RealTime RPI

14

96

Team Rankings Rank*

13

79

Average

8.88

81.63

The Bears finished 2013 as one of the Top 10-15 teams in the country, pretty much in every metric. SMU on the other hand slipped quite a bit in 2013, failing to miss a bowl game for the first time in 4 years on their way to a 5-win season. With a new QB, running back and a rebuilt offensive line, the Mustangs powerful passing attack is being rebuilt on the fly. While the Bears return most of the key pieces to the best offense in college football last year, they still have a new starting running back in the lineup. Overall, this matchup is a heavy lean to the Bears, which you would expect with a 31-33 point spread.

Keys to the Game

1. Control the early game emotions

To say that McLane Stadium will be rocking Sunday evening is an understatement. The place is going to be insane. The Baylor faithful have been waiting for this moment ever since we turned that last light off at Floyd Casey celebrating our first Big 12 championship well into the next day. The Bears will have to control that early emotion and not come out to high and make early mistakes. They have to settle down early and let the game come to them.

2. Finish Drives

This can talk about the offense or the defense. On offense, finishing drives off with touchdowns and not field goals is always important. When you get into the redzone, getting those 4 extra point from a TD can help you separate early and put more pressure on the opposition. Defensively, it is all about 3rd down. It is still a failure if you stop the offense completely on 1st and 2nd down only to allow a big play on 3rd down to keep the drive going. The Bears 3rd down defense took a tremendous step forward last year, so hopefully the Bears can get close to that level again.

3. Effective 4-man pass rush

Last year, the Bears proved to be a much improved blitzing team, especially in the back-half of the year. They could pressure the quarterback pretty consistently when bringing a 5th or even 6th man. With an experienced secondary, the Baylor staff trusted those guys to win those one-on-one battles. With an inexperienced secondary now, the Bears will want to help those guys out a bit, especially early on in the year. Getting to the quarterback with a 4-man pass rush will be crucial to applying pressure while still giving safety help or underneath help in zone for the secondary.

The two keys to that will be strength up the middle, and the individual effectiveness of Shawn Oakman, Jamal Palmer and the rest of the Baylor defensive ends. If Oakman can take his immense raw potential, and turn it into great production, the Bears will have a pass rusher that will demand a double-team, opening up the rest of the defensive line to step up.

Predictions

Massey Ratings – Bears win 48-24

RealTime RPI – Bears win 49-11

TeamRankings.com – Bears win 53-19

Staff Predictions COMING SOON!

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