I’m not totally surprised that Baylor will play in the Big 12 Championship game in 2019. In the offseason, myself, like other prognosticators talked ourselves into scenarios where Baylor could make a run at a conference title. My thoughts were that if Baylor could keep their offense humming and the ball bounced our way in 2019, then maybe we could backdoor our way into Jerry World with a 9-3 record. The way I saw it playing out, it would be the offense that would lead the way and the focus of the defense was to just limit the big play. Now, with a 10-1 record in late November, it’s time to eat some crow. It’s not luck nor a fluke. This 2019 Baylor defense is a fundamentally sound and physical unit. And I was wrong to doubt them.
Probably the biggest surprise is with the personnel. I know I have alluded to it previously, but these senior players are playing the best football of their careers by a mile. Each one of them has exceeded my expectations, and I’m willing to bet a lot of the fanbase as well. Perceived as a weakness going into the season, the defensive line is arguably the best in the conference. The position change of Grayland Arnold to safety has been great move. And suddenly Blake Lynch and Terrel Bernard are extremely effective blitzing from the second level. In August I wouldn’t have predicted any of that working out as well as it has done.
I also would not have predicted that this 2019 Baylor defense would be so physical. I can’t speak to the hard-hitting teams in the 1980’s, but as a unit this year’s team is probably the hardest hitting team I have seen in my lifetime. Joe Pawelek, Ahmad Dixon, and Sam Holl come to mind as arguably harder hitting players on certain teams, but as whole, I’d take the 2019 defense. On more than one occasion I have watched Bravvion Roy and James Lynch leave a quarterback grimacing after a nice pass rush. And though they might be slightly undersized, the Baylor linebackers have struck ball carriers very aggressively. Of course, the physicality of Chris Miller and Henry Black speaks volumes every game.
The physicality and overall play of the defense has helped the Bears conquer one of their problems from 2018; the ability to create turnovers. Last year Baylor averaged less than 1 per game, while this year the Bears have already doubled their total.
The best part of it all is being able to watch it as a fan. The defense plays with great chemistry as unit. The defensive line sets the tone and make it easier on the backside of the defense. The linebackers have been effective in both run support and pass coverage. And as we have seen all year, the secondary is not afraid to come downhill and the lay the wood on opposing players. The unit really complements each other. I was wrong about this 2019 Baylor defense. They are the ones who have led the path to the Big 12 Championship game.