What did Baylor do well? They put Nick Florence on the field. He was really good. In fact, he was the most efficient, most productive passer in college football in 2012. When we add in rushing yards he was 30 points behind Manziel in expected points added (schedule adjusted) but was also 30 points ahead of #3 Tajh Boyd. Let me put this another way. Florence was 2nd in the country in EP3+, the stat that has correctly picked every Heisman winning quarterback since 2005 but one. Seastrunk, who had only 29 carries through the first 7 games, was also pretty good. His 7.73 yards/carry were second best to only Dri Archer for players with over 1,000 yards rushing; only Denard Robinson and Johnny Manziel joined Archer and Seastrunk with 1,000 yards rushing and more than 7 yards per carry.
But Baylor could have been better. They were 10th nationally in plays/possession, helped by a top 20 3rd down conversion rate, but they turned the ball over at a higher rate than any other elite offense and got fewer points in the red zone than any elite offense but Kansas State.
The defense was bad. They were 115th with points allowed/possession (2.73) and 111th in plays and yards/possession. But they were average or slightly below average in most per play categories, and were actually fairly good at preventing explosive plays versus the run. But one fatal flaw was the Bears undoing. Even after adjusting for competition, Baylor was 120th in 3rd down defense. This puts them two spots behind Texas State, four behind New Mexico, and 20 spots behind UMass. That's really bad.
The Baylor defense did seem to be improving. While scoring a below average opponent adjusted EP3 in their first six games against FBS opponents, they were above average in three of their last four. To put this in perspective, Alabama's worst defensive performance was still far better than Baylor's best, but improvement is improvement.
Bryce Petty played his last season of high school football in 2008, has since thrown 14 passes, and if you listen to the Baylor faithful, he's about to revolutionize the game of football. But it doesn't matter. As long as Briles is calling the shots, Baylor will score points. Petty may be NCAA-Tebow reincarnate, but he can't add much to the Florence/Seastrunk combo at the end of 2012. All that matters is the defense. If Baylor can get stops on 3rd down the sky's the limit. If not, Baylor will have another fun season, rack up a lot of stats, and lose a few games to a few teams randomly selected from the Big 12 (but not Kansas).
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