Bears Exorcise FCS Demons, Plus Big XII Rankings

by Craig Cunningham | September 4, 2018

On Saturday’s home opener to the 2018 season, the Bears took care of business and matched their win total from all of last season. Favored to win by 41 against FCS school Abilene Christian, things would have had to go terribly wrong for the Bears to lose. Then again, last season Baylor lost to Liberty (another FCS school) despite being a 35-point favorite. At the highest levels of college football, every game has national championship implications. For Baylor, this game had tremendous and season-defining morale implications.

Put simply, Baylor could not afford another embarrassment.

And with 1:41 left in the first quarter and the score at 17-7, momentum shifted towards ACU. They stuffed Baylor on a 3rd and 2 to force a punt. And for just a moment, I wondered if ACU could score, the tide would turn, and we would see a repeat of last year.

But this Baylor team is clearly different.

The final score landed at 55-27 and victory was never truly in doubt. Rhule’s team set the tone for the season, and laid the groundwork for what we can likely expect over the next eleven games.

The Good

The talent at skill positions on offense is legit, and I’d put this group against anyone in the Big XII. The addition of Jalen Hurd to the receiving corps rounds out what I believe is our most potent offensive personnel since 2011. Mims and Hurd look like NFL talents. At running back, JaMycal Hasty and John Lovett both crossed the hundred-yard mark. They aren’t only threats on the ground, but also in the passing game. We’re going to score plenty of points this year.

Defensively, pay attention to #93 James Lynch. He’s a bull in a china shop, and plays with aggression. Hopefully, that doesn’t result in penalties throughout the year, as he flirted with a few roughing the passer calls against ACU. Quarterbacks watching film of the Baylor defense will certainly notice him.

The Bad

ACU scored 27, and left points on the field. Had they connected on a few blown coverages, they could have easily hung 35+ on the Bears. The Wildcats stacked up 466 yards, with 220 of those on the ground. Their offense finally stalled when their star receiver DJ Fuller (#1) left the game with an injury. You could say the defense needs to tighten up before we meet Oklahoma, West Virginia, and TCU.

As talented as Jalen Hurd is at receiver, he looked lost on punt returns and almost turned the ball over multiple times. The upside here isn’t worth the risk.

Our senior left tackle Josh Malin is reportedly out four weeks with an MCL injury. In the meantime, Eleasah Anderson, a redshirt freshman, will fill the gap.

Worst of all was the length of the game. While it has nothing to do with Baylor’s performance, college football must address the product on the field. At times, the game was unwatchable because of reviews, and the fans bailed after halftime.

The Questions

Quarterback. I’m not sure, but I can’t remember a team in the modern era that gave two quarterbacks equal playing time and also achieved significant success. It just doesn’t happen. Maybe Rhule rolled out both Jalan McClendon and Charlie Brewer to get their feet wet, or maybe he hasn’t seen enough in practice to make a clear distinction between the two players. But it was obvious to everyone watching the game that McClendon is a better option at this point. The senior transfer sees the field in ways that Charlie Brewer doesn’t, and he operated the offense with absolute poise. Brewer has plenty of upside and shows flashes, but the sophomore isn’t as polished as McClendon.

Early Big XII Power Rankings

  1. Oklahoma

Is it even close? Kyler Murray picked up where Mayfield left off.

  1. West Virginia

They walked into Tennessee and pounded the Vols 40-14. Tennessee may be rebuilding, but that’s an impressive beatdown of a traditional SEC powerhouse.

  1. TCU

Everyone can score in the Big XII, but TCU also plays defense.

  1. Oklahoma State

Like Oklahoma, the Cowboys lost an established quarterback to the NFL. But it doesn’t look like OKST is going to have trouble scoring.

  1. Baylor

Yes, I’m a homer. But Baylor has better offensive personnel than all of the teams below. With McClendon at quarterback, Baylor’s offense looked elite.

  1. Texas

Something feels off about the Herman era at Texas. He may be a square peg for a round hole. For the second year in a row they lost an opener to Maryland. An upcoming home date with USC may be the bellwether for their season.

  1. Iowa State

Very likely they would be ahead of Baylor had they played this week, but the game was postponed due to weather. The Cyclones have been trending up for several years.

  1. Texas Tech

Highlight-reel plays and a missing defense. It’s another year of Texas Tech football. The line separating Tech and Baylor is razor thin at times. Is this Kingsbury’s last year?

  1. Kansas St.

They barely eeked out a victory over over South Dakota. Unlikely they can win the shootouts required to be a contender in the Big XII.

  1. Kansas

The doormat of the league just lost on their home field to Nicholls State. They won’t be favored in a single game this year.

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