Baylor would be foolish to overlook Louisiana-Monroe when the two teams meet on Friday. Just ask Arkansas and Auburn.
The Warhawks stunned the Razorbacks two weeks ago, defeating them in overtime, 34-31. Last week, they nearly made it two upsets over SEC powers in a row, falling to Auburn in overtime, 31-28.
Baylor has cruised in its first two games, easily dispatching of Southern Methodist and Sam Houston State. Still, you could understand if the Bears overlook Louisiana-Monroe a bit; after this game, they begin the Big 12 schedule with games against West Virginia, TCU and Texas.
But Baylor should know that it is officially on upset watch. Let's take a closer look at one of this weekend's more intriguing games.
Where: Malone Stadium, Monroe, Louisiana
When: Friday, September 21 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN; WatchESPN
Betting Line: Baylor (-7.5), according to Bet Online.
Baylor Injuries (via USA Today)
OL Jake Jackson, Knee, Out
WR Jay Lee, Knee, Out
DT Kaeron Johnson, Back, Out for Season
Louisiana-Monroe Injuries (via USA Today)
WR Tavarese Maye, Undisclosed, Questionable
RB Centarius Donald, Knee, Questionable
LB Austin Moss, Illness, Questionable
Louisiana-Monroe is perfectly capable of upsetting Baylor and sending the Bears into the Big 12 schedule on a sour note. If you think this is a walk in the park for the Bears, think again.
Top 25 Implications
With a win—and a few losses from Top 25 teams—Baylor should enter the rankings. If Lousiana-Monroe gets the win, it deserves serious consideration for a ranking as well given the tough schedule it played to open the season.
What They're Saying
The Warhawks received a pair of decent-sized "take your loss and go home" checks and came away with a 1-1 record against the SEC. Ole Miss can't even do that. Arkansas without Bobby Petrino and Auburn without Cam Newton are not the same, but the Warhawks are suddenly a tough out.
Baylor Player to Watch: Terrance Williams, WR
After two games, the senior wide receiver has 13 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns and looks fully prepared to take the torch from departed star Kendall Wright. After his Week 1 performance, C.J. Moore of CBS Sports wrote the following:
Baylor's top receiver entered the season as a projected second-round pick by CBSSports.com. If Williams keeps playing like he did in the opener against SMU -- 7 catches for 138 yards -- he could work his way into the first round
All he did in Week 2 was snag six catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Mr. Williams' stock is rising, and the Louisiana-Monroe secondary will have their hands full with him.
Louisiana-Monroe Player to Watch: Kolton Browning, QB
Browning absolutely torched Arkansas (to be fair, I have a feeling we'll be saying that a lot this year), throwing for 412 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 69 yards and another score. He came to earth against Auburn, but still managed to throw three touchdowns.
The dual-threat quarterback—he's rushed 30 times for 127 yards in two games and leads the team in that regard—is the man Baylor must be most concerned with. Browning absolutely killed Arkansas, and Auburn had its hands full with him as well.
If he gets hot early, look out—it's going to be a long night for the Bears.
Key Matchup: Lousiana-Monroe Front Seven vs. Baylor Rushing Attack
The Warhawks were gashed to the tune of 255 rushing yards against Auburn last week. Baylor is 25th in the nation with 226 rushing yards per game thus far this season. You can see how this could be a problem for Lousiana-Monroe.
What's worse, Baylor is ninth in passing with 352.5 yards per game in the air. Still, if the running of Jarred Salubi, Nick Florence and Glasco Martin can churn out yards and keep Browning off the field, Baylor is going to be impossible to beat.
The Warhawks need to make Baylor one-dimensional in this game if they hope to win. They'll have a better chance competing in an aerial shootout than they will if Baylor runs the ball at will and controls the clock.
The Warhawks have controlled time of possession by a surprising margin in both of their games to start the season. If they pull off the feat a third time, they may escape with another upset win.
An away game against a confident Louisiana-Monroe side is no easy task for a Baylor team that found itself trailing 20-10 against FCS squad Sam Houston State at the half in Week 2. But the Bears are the more talented team here, and while I think this will be a very competitive game, Baylor will pull away in the end, winning 38-28.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are still in the Heisman race.
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