Baylor's front seven could be a liability
When the first College Football Playoff rankings were released last week and Baylor came in behind one-loss teams like Alabama and Notre Dame, it was a head scratcher. Baylor has been putting up video game numbers on offense and their closest game was decided by 18 points. Then you see their 96th-ranked strength of schedule and the fact that their best win came over a 5-5 Texas Tech team… and it starts to make sense.
On Thursday they faced Kansas State, their first opponent that boasts an offensive line that grades out among the top 25 in the country. And what we saw was a front seven get exposed. Baylor runs a lot of slants and stunts up front against the run. Against an assignment-sound offensive line like Kansas State’s, the run fits were a nightmare. There were multiple instances where Baylor lost control or slanted away from the intended point of attack and left running lanes that LaQuan McGowan could have run through. On the day, they allowed 168 yards before contact on 48 attempts. That’s not going to cut it when they face a team like TCU that has a passing threat to complement the run.
The biggest issue for Baylor would appear to be their linebackers. Grant Campbell (-10.3) has been a liability all year long and struggles mightily diagnosing runs. Against Kansas State he was continually playing on his own side of the line of scrimmage and let offensive linemen into his body play after play. Taylor Young (+8.4) has easily been the better of the two, but at 5-10 and 225 pounds, he looked completely overmatched on Thursday every time he was asked to take on a block. Both linebackers graded out below -2.0 against the run versus the Wildcats.
While TCU and Oklahoma State’s offensive lines have struggled, Oklahoma has one of the best lines in the nation. Next week’s game against the Sooners will be a great test for Baylor to see whether their performance against K-State was a fluke, or a sign of a serious issue in the future.