Can Baylor Stay Solid in the NCAAF Odds without Seth Russell?
Last week, the Baylor Bears suffered a devastating loss to their season, as their starting quarterback Seth Russell had a fracture to one of the bones in his neck, an injury that is set to sideline him for the rest of the season. The cannon-armed QB has been the biggest piece in Baylor’s incredible march in this season’s NCAAF odds, passing for 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns in his 7 games, with only six interceptions to his name. In main, it is because of his solid numbers that the Bears offense topped the 60-point scoring mark in five of its last six games overall, while climbing as high as their current No. 2 ranking in the country, entering Week 9’s games.
— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) October 28, 2015
With Russell now out for the season, can the Bears continue to scratch their way past opponents, or will the absence of the starting QB lead to a regression in their splendid run on the season so far? Here are some possible answers to that question, including a highlight of some factors that need to play out if they are to maintain their quest for a top-4 finish in the nation.
QB Jarrett Stidham’s Leadership in the Offense
Fortunately for the Bears, head coach Art Briles is a man that has been in this business for a while and was intuitively prepared for such an occurrence, raising a strong backup QB in the team in freshman Jarrett Stidham. The backup has seen some action in all of Baylor’s games this season, albeit on limited snaps. Having impressively completed 24-of-28 passes for 331 yards and 6 TDs against zero interceptions on his limited snaps, it goes without saying Baylor have a trusted player to man things under the center.
It, however, remains to be seen how the QB will perform on a starting role, and against a gruesome schedule that includes games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU. There’s definitely a lot of weapons to help him in passing and running the ball, but the hammer will rise and fall on his precision and decision-making skills, so a big game will be required on his part.
Corey Coleman and his Fellow Receivers Must Step Up
Heisman hopeful and Biletnikoff Award favorite WR Corey Coleman has been, hands down, the best aerial weapon in Baylor’s scary passing unit. On the season, he leads the nation with 962 yards and 18 TDS on 47 catches, and if he can stay healthy (and Stidham lives up to his bill), Coleman should be able to shatter a good number of college football’s records in the receiving department. All that will, however, be possible if Coleman and his fellow wideouts (including Jay Lee, Chris Platt and K.D. Cannon) can make Stidham’s decisions easy through solid routes and good positioning in the field. Having played together on the field on several occasions this season should especially make the transition in QB change rather seamless.
Running Backs Continue to Pound it Hard
Most praise this season has been going to Russell and his receivers, who’ve been very explosive in there aerial game, something that has overshadowed the fact that the running game has just been as lethal and pivotal for the team. Entering Week 9, the runners have impressively racked up 2,368 yards of offense and 23 touchdowns this season, averaging at nearly 340 rushing yards and 3 TDs per game. Junior Shock Linwood has been the standout performer of this solid group of running backs, averaging a mind-boggling 8.1 yards per carry and has already pounded the ground for 974 rushing yards and nine scores this season. With Russell out, and Stidham looking to find his footing against solid opponents, Linwood and his fellow backs must help in picking up the slack offensively.
Tighter Defense and More Big Plays from the Secondary
The Bears aren’t known to be a defense-oriented team, largely because their offense has been so good that opponents often give up in trying to play catch-up. Even so, the Bears will need all they can get from their defense if they are to survive their tough slate of upcoming opponents. Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU are teams that are well-known for their ability to put up points on the scoreboard, with Horned Frogs particularly owning a beastly offensive weapons in Heisman’s top-contending QB Trevone Boykin. In that regard, Baylor’s defense must step up its game by making enough defensive plays, protecting the young QB, and avoiding too many cheap points and the kind of mistakes that were witnessed when the Bears played the deadly Texas Tech offense.
On paper, Stidham looks the part of a solid backup, and the fact that he has a solid support system (especially in the offense) should see him shine for the Bears. Still, Baylor fans should have cautious optimism, waiting for the backup to play a couple of games before fully banking on him in the NCAA Football odds to lead the Bears to the Big 12 crown, or the 2015-16 college football playoff, for that matter.