When Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin suffered a season-ending injury in the Bears’ third game of the season last year, it effectively derailed any postseason plans Baylor may have had before the team ever really started.
Baylor’s offense fell from averaging almost 196 rushing yards per game in 2008 to about 101 yards mostly without Griffin in 2009. But the Bears’ quarterback isn’t just a runner. He completed 65 percent of his throws through two games in 2009, with 481 yards and no interceptions along with four touchdowns.
Without Griffin, Baylor was abused in Big-12 play on their way to a 4-8 record. This year, Griffin again has stellar numbers entering the third game of the season, this Saturday at No. 4 TCU. For the Horned Frogs, the plan should be simple. Shut down Griffin, shut down Baylor.
TCU Offensive Line vs. Baylor Defensive Line
TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick can line up with anyone in the country, as he and his line proved handling Stephen Paea and the Oregon State pass rush. Senior quarterback Andy Dalton has yet to be pushed around in the pocket, and has proven to be a smart scrambler when he sees an open opportunity. In addition, the offensive line has made running backs Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker into valuable weapons to eat up clock and march consistently downfield.
Baylor senior nose guard Phil Taylor draws the short straw this week, and will be lined up against Kirkpatrick. Taylor transferred from Penn State to Baylor, but didn’t prove to be the difference maker Bears coach Art Briles was hoping for when he got on the field last year. Taylor has already bested his two and a half tackles for loss last year, he has 3 so far in 2010, and is joined by redshirt freshman Tevin Elliot at defensive end. Elliot has 10 tackles, a sack and three tackles for a loss so far this year.
However, the Horned Frog offensive line is too experienced to allow heavy pressure against the Baylor defense, and should win the battle handedly.
Baylor Offensive Line vs. TCU Defensive Line
The TCU defensive ends were a big question mark heading into the season but after two games, senior Wayne Daniels and company look just fine. Daniels already has three and a half sacks and five tackles for loss and on the other end of the line, redshirt freshman Stansly Maponga is growing into his role.
On the offensive line, Baylor lost two three-year starters heading into the season. They entered the year with only 37 starts between their offensive linemen, but they have given up a single sack so far this year and have averaged 187 rushing yards over their first two games.
Though there were concerns at both TCU and Baylor, these units have been solid so far. TCU should have an advantage, so long as Daniels is active.
TCU Offensive Skill Positions vs. Baylor’s Defensive Backfield
Dalton has led the Frogs to 905 yards of total offense through two games. The TCU attack has been 61 percent on the ground so far, a good balance for a team that should be controlling the clock. Dalton has also spread the ball around well through two games, with five receivers with at least three catches this year. The offense should never be outgunned this year.
Baylor’s defensive backs and linebackers are simply middle of the road. Each unit lost two starters, but each returns a good amount of depth. The one player to watch is true freshman cornerback Ahmad Dixon, who was rated 15th nationally at his position by ESPNU last spring. Dalton may choose to pick on the youngster.
TCU’s Defensive Backfield vs. Baylor’s Offensive Skill Positions
Containing Robert Griffin will be the key task for Horned Frog linebackers. As the numbers show, having Griffin under center relieves some of the pressure off of the Bears’ run game, which yields much better results. However, the Horned Frog run defense has been perennially exceptional for the last decade. Patterson’s speedy 4-2-5 defense is a nightmare for running backs. Baylor returns senior Jay Finley at running back, who’s averaged 6.7 yards per carry so far, but that number should be dropping after Saturday.
In the pass game, Griffin set an NCAA freshman record by throwing 209 straight passes without an interception in 2008. He is accurate and while he doesn’t have a complement of weapons like Dalton, Bears receiver Kendall Wright put up good numbers last year with a backup quarterback. With Griffin getting him the ball, he may demand some help in coverage.
In reality its hard to get a feel for how good the Bears offense is this season, given the quality of the teams they’ve played. Griffin has led Baylor to wins over Sam Houston State and Buffalo, with both coming at home.
Josh Davis is a senior broadcast journalism major from Dallas.