A new era of SMU football starts this season as former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris takes off as head coach of the Mustangs. On the other hand, Baylor head coach Art Briles returns a roster filled with playmakers from last season that couldn’t have been closer to making the inaugural College Football Playoff. While both coaches are in two different situations — Briles attempting to continue Baylor’s dominance and Morris trying to rebuild a program — they have one thing in common. Both have something to prove.
Baylor at SMU
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Friday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Baylor -36
Three Things to Watch
1. Baylor Offense vs SMU Defense
Yes, I know it seems this may be funny but SMU has a new defensive coordinator, Van Malone. Malone was the former cornerbacks coach at Oklahoma State and has switched the Mustangs defense to a 4-2-5 scheme. This would normally force offenses to find productivity on the ground. However, you just aren’t going to force Art Briles to do anything. It will be interesting to watch new Baylor starting quarterback Seth Russell face off against a defense that, although has holes to fill, will be daring him to pass.
2. SMU Offense
Don’t look for SMU to put up a lot of points against a Baylor defense that is arguably among the top in the Big 12. Do, however, pay attention to the new offensive scheme. The Mustangs will be running a fast tempo, no huddle, spread offense. With plenty of experience and speed in the backfield they should be able to at least sustain some drives. This will be a good test for SMU as every opponent after Baylor will seem easy in comparison.
3. Can Seth Russell Fill Bryce Petty’s Shoes
Russell will be making his second career start when he takes the field against SMU. While most are familiar with his style of play and ability, there is an added element being the starter of the 4th ranked team in the nation. Can Bears fans expect to see the same productivity they are now accustomed to seeing? Petty led the Baylor offense to an average of 48.2 points per game and 581.5 yards per game. This particular game should be able to showcase all of Russell’s abilities as the Bears offense ought to simply be able to move at will.
Baylor has been criticized for their inability to schedule stronger non-conference games. Opening the season against a team that finished 1-11 last season won’t change that criticism. However, SMU will present a good warm up for the Bears with Big 12 Conference play just a month away. The Mustangs will run offensive as well as defensive schemes the Bears will see again once they get into the meat of their schedule.
As far as the outcome, this simply should not be a test for the Bears. While many are waiting to see how Seth Russell controls the offense and the speed of KD Cannon, you better pay attention early. You can expect most starters to be sitting later in the game, unless of course head coach Art Briles is still holding a grudge after last season and is looking to make a statement. Then this could be something Mustang fans will want to forget immediately.
Prediction: Baylor 56, SMU 14
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.