Will the second time be the charm...when it comes to beating Bears?
There are some darn good reasons why Coach Wulff will see his team earn their first victory of the 2008 season.
In Baylor, the Cougs face a team that mirrors the status of their football program. The Bears have a new head man in Coach Art Briles, an offensive minded coach. Same thing at Washington State with Coach Wulff.
WSU will have a new quarterback taking over this season. It will either be Gary Rogers or Kevin Lopina, neither of which got any valuable experience last year as backups. Same thing at Baylor. Their new quarterback this season is Robert Griffin, a true freshman. Make no mistake, Griffin is a player. Many are comparing him to another favorite son from the Lone Star state, Vince Young. Griffin isn't anywhere near polished enough to earn such lofty comparisons, but he has the athletic ability to become a real star. One thing that has helped Griffin's progress as a freshman was early enrollment at Baylor so he could participate in spring practice to begin the process of learning Coach Briles offense.
Let's look at the rest of Baylor's offense, shall we?
Most of the nearly 400 yards/game of offense the Bears have produced in their first two games has come through the air. Griffin has yet to throw an interception while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. Those are excellent numbers for the true freshman.
No one has emerged as a threat as running back for Baylor. Jay Finley and Robert Griffin have split most of the carries. That's right. Griffin, the freshman quarterback, has more rushes than any of the running backs. There's that comparison to Vince Young coming up again.
The corps of wide receivers is a very young group with potential. David Gettis, Kendall Wright (no relation!), and Thomas White have been favorite targets of Griffin when he's not running the ball. Gettis has the potential to give the Cougar secondary the most fits because of his size and athletic ability. At 6' 4", Gettis can out-jump many defensive backs to haul in a catch.
Because of Griffin's mobility, the offensive line has only given up four sacks in the first two games for a total loss of 11 yards.
Looking at the Baylor defense, it's very clear that they are tough up front. The are big along the front line. How big? Big enough to keep their first two opponents to around 100 yards of rushing while ringing up five sacks. That's not bad.
The defense is anchored by linebacker Joe Pawelek. This game will be his 25th start. That's how many tackles Joe Paw has accumulated in the first two games. If the Cougar offense doesn't account for Joe Paw, he's going to smash whoever has the football...guaranteed.
Wake Forest was able to expose the lack of speed up front for the Bears with their option offense. The Cougs don't run the option, but Lopina likes to roll out and isn't afraid to tuck the ball and run. Both Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory have the speed to get outside. Attacking the Baylor front with speed to the outside will soften up the play of the D-backs against the fleet WSU wide outs. There's no way the Cougar receivers will continue to drop as many passes as they have the first two games.
Because the Washington State charter will be landing in Waco just about four hours before kickoff, there won't be any time to over-think things. The coaches and players will be running on instinct from their preparation for the game. And that, my friends, will give us an idea of how things are progressing for Coach Wulff.
The odds-makers have gone both ways on this game. Neither team has been put at more than a three point favorite.
The question remains, "Will Coach Wulff and Washington State earn their first victory tonight?"
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