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Baylor vs. Northwestern State Preview / Prediction Thread

It's about time we preview the game that is now less than a day away...

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Sept. 6, 2014 | 6:30 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | McLane Stadium (45,140)

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ODB GAME HUB: Baylor Bears vs. Northwestern State Demons
First Look: Northwestern State Demons
ODB Predicts:
Northwestern State (results coming in the morning)
ODB Roll Call: w/TV, Radio, and Watch Party Info
Underdog Dynasty?
WEATHER FORECAST: During the day: High 96F, mostly sunny skies. Night: Scattered thunderstorms during the evening, then cloudy skies overnight. Low 74F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

BAYLOR UNIFORMS: Rumor: Green helmet, green jersey, white pants

Injury News:

Baylor: QB Bryce Petty (DOUBTFUL, see below), WR Antwan Goodley (OUT), WR Corey Coleman (OUT), WR Levi Norwood (OUT), WR Clay Fuller (OUT), RB Devin Chafin (OUT)

Northwestern State: ?

Advanced Stats:

We don't have any for Northwestern State because they are an FCS team and thus not included in the stats from  Baylor is included, obviously, and I've put the few we have after Week 1 in the chart below.  Next week, when we play Buffalo, I'll debut the first real Stats Preview of the 2014 season.  We won't have all the contributory stats for FEI or S&P+ until later in the season, but this is a good example of where I'm going with that.

Category Baylor
Baylor Offense Baylor Defense
2014 F/+ Rk 11 (---) (---) (---)
2014 F/+ Special Teams
--- --- ---
2014 FEI Rk 19 (---) (---) (---)
2014 S&P+ Rk 6 (---) 13 (---) 17 (---)

Thoughts on the Game:

I'm going to be completely honest-- I know almost nothing about this Northwestern State team.  I know they're an FCS team that lost its first game of the season to Missouri State, the same team that will play Oklahoma State tomorrow, and they hail from Natchitoches, Louisiana.  I know that this is their logo:

I know that his name is Vic the Demon and that having a soul patch apparently makes one look evil.  That's about it.

The Health of QB Bryce Petty

The big question going into this game is on the Baylor side: the health of QB Bryce Petty.  All week, Baylor has steadfastly maintained that the only way Bryce would play is if he's 100% healthy.  To get that clean bill, it means no pain, full range of motion, and no swelling or inflammation.  All this seems unlikely so soon after the injury on Sunday night, which is probably why Briles said earlier this week that his recovery would have to be "pretty dramatic."

Still, Baylor has not categorically ruled out any chance of Petty's return for the game tomorrow, which seems to indicate such a chance exists.  So does the statement today that Petty will be a "game-time decision" tomorrow.

I feel pretty strongly that there is no reason at this point for Petty to play tomorrow.  With all due respect to the Demons, we don't need him to win this game, nor will him doing so really accomplish anything.  Seth Russell is more than capable of running our offense against the Demon defense.  Give Petty the day off tomorrow, prepare him for a return against Buffalo a week from tonight on ESPN, and let's move on.

About Northwestern State:

The biggest player to know on the NWState team is QB Zach Adkins, a JUCO transfer from Eddie Lackey's old school in California that was the Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year.  He ran the Demons' offense capably a year ago and is now back as a senior.  In his preview over on BearsTruth, friend of the blog S11 (@BearsTruthS11describes the Demons offense as an Air Raid, a descriptor that I think fits given their tendencies to spread things out.  They also, however, like to run the ball, and will probably attempt to do so until the point where they game starts to get out of reach.

On defense, the Demons run what looks like a pretty standard 4-3 with their strong safety referred to as a "Jack" on their depth chart.  One player to watch here is senior NT Deon Simon, #99, a 6-4, 332 pounder that has started the last three seasons.  The rest of the line looks relatively undersized, including both ends and all three starting linebackers.  They start two seniors at corner in Imoan Claiborne and Fred Thomas that could challenge our young receivers, but neither is especially big, making a hard press unlikely.

On the other side, junior LT Pace Murphy (6-6, 279 pounds) will have the assignment of his life against DE Shawn Oakman, while junior RT Delryn Wilson (6-3, 315 pounds) will take Jamal Palmer.  It's hard to imagine anyone having a worse game than SMU's tackles last week, but it's similarly hard imagining these guys doing significantly better, either.  I'm not going to predict another SMU-like performance for the DL, but it's possible.  SMU's line, as bad as it looked, was deep and experienced, especially at tackle.  They weren't/aren't nearly as bad as we made them look.

My Prediction:

The big one: Bryce Petty won't play.  That's just my opinion, obviously, and therefore totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but I don't see it happening.  Seth Russell will start his first game as a Baylor Bear and play relatively well.

As I mentioned on the Podcast, my hope is that Baylor can shut out the Demons tomorrow and run our scoreless streak to 8 quarters.  The only problem is that shutouts are rare because shutouts are hard; one long kickoff return or broken coverage and they're in field goal range.  We almost saw that happen last week before back-to-back sacks took them out again and everything was ok.

I expect that no matter who the QB is tomorrow, the offensive performance will be much more like what we've seen in the past than what we saw against SMU.  Even without Goodley, Coleman, Fuller, or Norwood, Baylor has a ton of talent at the receiver position, especially with true freshman Davion Hall and K.D. Cannon having burned their redshirts.  We may see another freshman this week in Chris Platt, as well.  Rashodrick Linwood and Johnny Jefferson will carry the load on the ground with Seth Russell perhaps showing off his wheels there, too.

Final Score: Baylor 62, Northwestern State 6.*

*That's different than what I predicted earlier in the week.  I think I went 66-9 there.

Give me your predictions in the comments and vote in the poll!