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stormstopper

[2023] Big XII Network Week 0 Saturday Afternoon Preview: Baylor at Houston

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:baylor: Baylor (0-0) at :houston: Houston (0-0)

 

The Big XII season begins with an all-Texas affair, as Baylor makes the three-hour trip southeast to take on Houston. This should be a real test for the Baylor defense, which will have to deal with a Houston backfield that returns neither of its starters--for better or for worse. Rickie Shaffer graduated, but he completed just 55.7% of his passes for 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year. Runningback William Amos didn't add much, putting up a mere 657 yards and 6 touchdowns on 177 carries. They'll be replaced by junior quarterback Omar Workman and junior fullback-turned-runningback Cooper Christianson, who is being moved over due to the sheer youth Houston has at the position outside of him. Don't expect their offense to change too much; Workman's the same type of dual-threat that Shaffer was, and it's too early to tell what difference Christianson can make. Keeping them contained will be crucial, and a successful effort in doing so would be a good sign for a Baylor front that wasn't what was expected last year. Seeing Alexander Talbert and Justice Mabry eat some gaps up front would free up enough space for Garrett Powers and Zachary McHale to do their work. All that leaves is for William Travis and Vincent Perkins to win one-on-one matchups on the edge against a pair of good young wide receivers. Mohamed Barrett had 796 yards and 6 touchdowns on 60 catches last year, and it'll be important to stick to him like glue because even the slightest bit of separation is enough for him to make the catch. Benjamin Hampton had 566 yards and 5 scores on 43 catches, and the Baylor secondary will need to keep up with him because he's got afterburners. But I still like the matchup for Travis, Perkins, Shawn Hodge, and company, especially when factoring in the front seven preventing the offense from buying enough time to set something up downfield.

 

And, of course, Baylor has their own set of wide receivers, laden with sophomores, prepared to set up shop in Houston's own defensive backfield. We didn't see as much as we would have liked from Maleek Abioye-Afua (448 yards, 3 TD on 41 catches) as the #2 option behind Lamont Wilder. Elki Denson didn't even play last year, taking a redshirt year after hauling in 172 yards on 13 catches. But both are very large human beings at 6-5 and 6-4, and both have hands like glue. Ultimately, they're both complementary options for Curtis Sheppard until proven otherwise, however. Sheppard finished last season with a team-high 801 yards and 5 touchdowns on a team-high 52 catches. That chemistry between Sheppard and Caleb Olmsted was crucial last year, and building that kind of chemistry throughout the receiving corps will matter. Houston's secondary isn't much to write home about--look out for Kareem Myrick in a couple of years, though--so they should have plenty of opportunity to get reps in on Saturday. The Houston front seven is a bit better than their secondary, but it shouldn't be a problem for a Baylor offensive line that looks to be the stronger unit of the two. Middle linebacker Marvin Pimentel is dangerous; he had 34 tackles (3 for loss) and an interception last season. Defensive tackle Christopher Ponder (18 tackles, 5 for loss, 4.0 sacks) can't be taken lightly either; it'll be up to redshirt freshman center Andrew Wheatley to stymie him. The added bonus of repelling the Houston front seven (other than just doing so for its own sake) is more room for Miles Street to run, and he will welcome any such room as he looks to improve his 4.3 career yards per carry average. Ultimately, the sheer number of position groups that see this game as an opportunity should be a giveaway for how much more talent Baylor has than Houston. I expect the Bears to win, but how each unit performs will shed more light on how the season will go than the final result alone will.

 

:baylor: Baylor 31, :houston: Houston 13

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I want to see Garrett Powers have a coming out party! He was such a sexy, sexy recruit. I want him to be great, even if he did go to Baylor.

 

i think Baylor wins this game going away. 

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It could just be me being optimistic but I think this team is already better than last years. Omar Workman had a great spring game and even Christianson seems to be better than William Amos. The rest of my team is mostly sophmores and juniors who started as freshman. The record at the end of the season might say otherwise due to a tough schedule but I like the future of this team nonetheless. 

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I'm with @DangerZoneh on this, I really want to see Powers make a comeback. He didn't have an eventful sophomore year; but I think now with Thomas Morton gone, powers can slide back into his usual spot as a Mike linebacker. Maybe with the duo Mike-Will combo, the linebacker corps should perform better. Here's to hoping... Sic 'Em!

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