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Phil Bennett's defense has been much-improved since beating Kansas State last November.
Once the laughingstock of the Big 12 and the whole country, Baylor's defense, under third-year coordinator Phil Bennett, came together down the stretch last year. The last month of the season the defense was in the top three of the conference, according to ESPN.com Big 12 blogger David Ubben and had a plus-nine turnover margin during that time.
Coach Briles has said he believes in Bennett's abilities as a coordinator, and his patience has paid off. Bennett now has his own recruits on the field and system in place. In April, Briles talked about how the defense has been able to improve:
We’re not going to make it hard, we’re going to make it simple on what everybody’s job is, so I think it’s just a combined fact of being in coach Bennett’s system. The longer consistency stays, the better chance you have to be consistent.
After you go through a 2-3 year period, all of a sudden you don’t have to look to your left or right to see who’s standing there. You know who’s there, so we’re getting to that comfort factor from a schematic, athletic standpoint.
The success has carried over into 2013.
It's easy to push aside Baylor's improved defensive numbers because of its opponents, but Baylor's defense does deserve some credit. If you compare games against the two FCS schools Baylor has played the last two years, Wofford this year and Sam Houston State last year, the results are drastically different.
In 2012, Baylor struggled with Sam Houston State, who finished ranked No. 2 in the FCS poll, surrendering 411 yards and trailing at the half 20-10. Against 10th-ranked Wofford this year, the Bears defense only allowed three points and 211 yards, despite being on the field for 77 plays.
Other encouraging stats to throw out there are a nation's-best 13.0 tackles for loss per game, 8.0 points allowed per game and only 298 yards allowed per game.
If Bennett can manage to put together a defense that ranks in the top 70 in the nation, the Bears could be atop the conference come December.
While there is no transitive property in college football, Baylor handled Buffalo much more easily than Ohio State did the previous week. Baylor trounced the Bulls, 70-13, while Ohio State won, 40-20. It will be interesting to see how the Baylor defense fares in Week4 against Louisiana-Monroe, a team that was manhandled, 34-0, in its season opener versus Oklahoma.