NEW ORLEANS — Baylor football has been one of the more compelling programs the past couple of year, going from one win in 2017, to seven wins last year and 11 this year.
The Bears could, in fact, set a school record with a 12-win season with a victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl at 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) are favored to beat No. 7 Baylor (11-2), but Georgia’s player attrition could factor in against a fully-loaded Bears team.
Kirby Smart has been impressed with the coaching job Matt Rhule has done there.
“The turnaround he’s been able to do there is really incredible, they’ve played in a lot of really tough games this year,” Smart said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for their conference, having played Texas from their conference last year and they do a fabulous job.”
The Longhorns upset Georgia 28-21 in last year’s Sugar Bowl game.
John Werner has covered Baylor athletics for the Waco Tribune Herald for 37 years and took some time to share insight with DawgNation.
Here are five questions and answers about the Bears entering the Wednesday night showdown in New Orleans:
1. Baylor can win a school-record 12 games and its biggest bowl since the 1957 Sugar Bowl. Could these Bears stake a claim to being the best team in school history with a win over Georgia?
JW: I’m not sure if you could say this is the best team in Baylor history if they win their 12th game, but they’d certainly challenge for that claim. Ironically, the 1956 Baylor team that finished 9-2 and beat No. 2 Tennessee in the 1957 Sugar Bowl would also be in the discussion.
2. Baylor coach Matt Rhule has told his players the NFL’s Carolina Panthers have interest in him. Could this affect the Bears’ preparations and has this happened before?
JW: I don’t think the rumors will have a major impact on the team because Rhule has always let the team know that he’ll listen to NFL teams that are pursuing him. He was very up front with the team about the rumors Sunday morning after the Carolina news broke.
3. The Bears went from 10 takeaways last season to 30 this season. What do you attribute the team’s drastic improvement to? Is Baylor more susceptible to run or pass?
JW: A lot of Baylor’s defensive players are veterans who are more confident and experienced in defensive coordinator Phil Snow’s system. Baylor has also collected 43 sacks. Constant pressure on quarterbacks has led to more turnovers. They’ve been equally good against the pass and run.
4. For all the talk about the Baylor defense, what is the offensive personality?
JW: Baylor’s offense relies a lot on Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer. The offensive line has been suspect, forcing Brewer to create plays with his legs. He’s got some talented skill people around him like WR Denzel Mims and RB JaMycal Hasty.
5. What would it take for the Bears to pull off an upset? What are the Baylor team strengths and weaknesses?
JW: Baylor’s defense needs a big day and must force some turnovers to beat Georgia. I don’t think Baylor’s offense can drive the ball consistently enough to win without a major assist from the defense.
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