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Baylor vs. Northwestern State -- GAME DAY -- Links, Notes, TV Schedule, Thoughts, Poll

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After a summer of wandering in the wilderness, Baylor Football returns to the field today to play a real game.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
vs.
23/21 BAYLOR (0-0) vs. Northwestern State (0-0)
Sept. 2, 2015 | 6:30 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | McLane Stadium (45,140)

TV: FSN
Listen | Gametracker Gametracker | Game Notes Notes | Tickets

OPPONENT: Northwestern State Demons
ODB GAME HUB:
Baylor vs. Northwestern State 2016
BAYLORBEARS.COM PREVIEW:
Right here.
MEET THE PRESS:
Baylor vs. Northwestern State
PREVIEW PODCAST:
Season Predictions
SPREAD: Baylor -47.5 (O/U 79)
TV COVERAGE: FSN, 6:30 p.m. CST

THE BIG NEWS:

We're playing football again!  Real football!  It's been a long time.  There's at least two notable injuries worth mentioning here, as well:

RB Johnny Jefferson -- OUT -- Unknown return at this point from an offseason foot injury and (maybe) other injuries sustained in a car accident.  Everyone is being very tight-lipped about things, but he's definitely not playing tonight. Expect Shock Linwood and Terence Williams to get the majority of carries in his absence.

NB Travon Blanchard -- OUT -- Still recovering from surgery a week or so again but supposedly, the news has been good with that recovery.  Could come back for SMU?  Pat Levels will get the start NB in his absence.

ADVANCED STATS;

We didn't do that this week since anything we might show you (a) doesn't have Northwestern State in it due to the fact that they're an FCS school, and (b0 would be based entirely on preseason projections.  We'll get that ramped up next week, to be sure.

THOUGHTS ON THE GAME:

So much has happened since Baylor walked off the field after the Russell Athletic Bowl that I wouldn't fault you for saying this is almost a different program than the one we saw that night.  Sure, almost all of our coaches are still here, but the one that matters most, isn't.  We've lost a ton of guys to the NFL, graduation, forced departure, or voluntary departure since that point, and though Seth Russell is now back at the helm, nobody really knows what he's going to do. On defense, it looks like we will be shifting to a 3-man front as our primary alignment rather than something of a novelty, and we're going to do it undermanned across the line.  Basically, anybody that tries to say with any certainty who this Baylor team is or what they will do is either lying to themselves (and possibly you) or some kind of sorceror.

That being said, I feel confident saying that Baylor should win tonight's game easily.  That's not to take NW State lightly by any stretch or to downplay the issues I've already identified with depth, potential injuries, or actual injuries.  It is, instead, a reflection of the fact that despite losing those guys I mentioned above and having our recruiting class raided, Baylor still has a lot more talent than NW State, will be playing at home, and has an offense that should be among the best in the country if the offensive line can gel.  There's not a lot of specifics for this game in there, and I'm sorry for that, but I'm not sure what else to say.

What I'll Be Watching:

  • Demeanor -- As much as I hate it when people judge body language or try to draw conclusions off insignificant things they can't possibly know, I admit that I'll be watching to see how the team looks coming out tonight.  Since they last took the field, scandal has literally shaken the foundation of the program of which they are the most vital part.  They've lived with it every day.  Yes, they've said all the right things -- particularly Seth Russell, the undisputed offensive leader -- but now is when it matters again.  I want to see how they react to playing real football and how Jim Grobe as acting coach has them motivated for the game.
  • The Offensive Line -- For obvious reasons. My guess is that we see a ton of substitutions tonight across the OL, where things aren't exactly settled by all accounts.  Baylor has 8-9 guys that should rotate through various spots, and I'll be watching to see which unit/grouping seems to work best. 
  • The Linebackers -- Because of our lack of depth up front and the fact that we're moving to a 3-4 (at least, so we've been told and/or think), the linebackers are arguably the key to the entire defense this season, particularly in stopping the run.  I'll be watching to see how guys like Raaquan Davis and Thomas Cletcher do alongside Levels and Aiavion Edwards, as well as their backups like Eric Ogor and Jordan Williams.  Linebacker is a big key to the defense this year.
  • How Do We Start -- This circles back into the "demeanor" part above, but how we come out of the gate will show a lot about where this team is.  Sure, it's Northwestern State.  But do they come out fast and strong like the Briles Bears, or is it more timid and reserved?  I have to believe it'll be the former, but the latter isn't out of the question.  We just don't know.

My Prediction:

After a couple of early misfires offensively, Baylor eventually overwhelms Northwestern State and establishes a rhythm in the second half.

Baylor 56, Northwestern State 17.

Links Links Links Links Links:

Amidst changes, Baylor still aims to compete for national title - WacoTrib.com: Baylor Bears Football
Their head coach was fired, players have scattered to other programs, and they’ve been pummeled constantly by questions about Baylor’s sexual assault scandal.

Linwood closing on Abercrombie, set to become Baylor’s all-time rushing leader - WacoTrib.com: Baylor Bears Football
When Walter Abercrombie walked off the field following his final college game in 1981, he was certain his Baylor career rushing record wouldn’t last long.

Where does Baylor go from here? Examining the program’s future - WacoTrib.com: Baylor Bears Football
After the most successful five-year run in school history, the crash of the Baylor football program has played out before the eyes of the nation.

How to watch college football's Week 1: TV times, online streaming and the best games - SBNation.com
It’s going to be a long, glorious weekend of football. Make sure you have your viewing strategy ready.

2016 Baylor Bears football season preview | The Star-Telegram
A neck injury almost ended Baylor quarterback Seth Russell’s football career last season. But the fifth-year senior is back to lead a team coming off a tumultuous off-season and adjusting to a new coach.

Baylor Football Fans Look Ahead After a Stormy Off-Season - The New York Times
The new season comes following a report that said Baylor had mishandled sexual-assault complaints, including some against members of the football team.

TWEETS TWEETS TWEETS TWEETS TWEETS:

And that's about it. Happy Game Day, everybody!