The No. 2 Bears have this weekend off, along with four others among the top seven teams in the Associated Press rankings (a big reason why we’re taking about them in this spot despite the bye). Baylor (4-0 Big 12) heads to Kansas State next Thursday, then must face Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Christian over a 14-day span, a stretch that was always going to define their playoff hopes.
Even the one-year sample size of the playoff era offers evidence a quarterback injury isn’t catastrophic. After all, Ohio State crushed Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game with Cardale Jones last year after J.T. Barrett’s season-ending injury and went on to win the national championship.
On the surface, opportunities to impress against quality foes and past precedent are two of three obvious stumbling blocks in the case of a major injury, and Baylor has those covered. The far greater concern is whether Russell’s replacement, true freshman Jarrett Stidham, is good enough to help the Bears emerge unscathed at then end of their 12-game regular season schedule.
It’s possible Coach Art Briles’s offense is so well constructed the quarterback doesn’t matter. After all, the Bears ranked in the top seven nationally in pass efficiency from 2011 to 2014 and are atop that category this year as well. Even more impressive is they’ve done it with four primary starting quarterbacks (Robert Griffin III, Nick Florence, Bryce Petty and Russell) over a five-year span.
So the system works. The presence of Casey Coleman doesn’t hurt, either. The receiver, now Baylor’s de facto Heisman candidate, has 47 catches for 962 yards and 18 touchdowns, and he will make Stidham’s life considerably easier.
There’s also the matter that Stidham is extremely well regarded after thriving in an offense similar to Briles’s while in high school. His numbers to date, piled up largely in garbage time against poor opponents, offer no red flags: 24 of 28 for 331 yards and six touchdowns.
The easy side-by-side comparison is Stidham to Russell, and it will be tempting to point to a dip in production should the Bears falter even a little bit after scoring 61.1 points per game to date. But a regression might have come anyway even if Russell remained healthy.
Russell threw one touchdown for every 6.9 passing attempts this season, an astonishing pace. Consider that TCU’s Trevone Boykin — in the midst of an excellent year himself — is at exactly 10 pass attempts per touchdown (25 TDs in 250 attempts). Griffin, in Heisman-winning season while playing in the same offense for the same coach, tossed a touchdown every 10.9 pass attempts.
Stidham might or might not be ready for the responsibility of running a potent offense, and he’ll need to fare well against the TCUs and Oklahomas if Baylor wants to remain in the playoff picture. Recent history suggests the Bears won’t have trouble scoring, regardless of its quarterback, but it’s also unlikely anyone was going to replicate Russell’s dominance over a full season.
The defining image of most of the eight FBS coach jobs to open in the last two months was a stone-faced athletic director promising to get things right (or a news release declaring the same). In short, they were generally pretty forgettable beyond the headline.
Kill’s explanations were a visceral look not at someone forced to give up work he had savored for more than three decades, which by itself warrants plenty of empathy. But the more striking — and haunting — part of the video above was the man’s evident fear at possibly finding himself directionless. That’s something that should happen to no one, regardless of profession. Here’s hoping he remains busy and involved in several projects at Minnesota.
Rutgers’ Kyle Flood was suspended three games earlier this season, and a 3-4 mark isn’t going to help what appears to be a tenuous situation for the Scarlet Knights coach. Purdue Coach Darrell Hazell is 5-26 in three seasons, including a ghastly 1-18 in the Big Ten, though he would be due a nearly $7 million buyout if the Boilermakers make a change.
There’s also Indiana’s Kevin Wilson, who is in his fifth season and has yet to take the Hoosiers to a bowl game. That looked like it might change after a 4-0 start this year, but Indiana went 0-for-October and might have to beat both Maryland and Purdue on the road to get to six victories.
The record for the most new football coaches in one season in the Big Ten is five, set all the way back in 1903. Even four new coaches (granted, with a larger membership than at any point prior to last year in the league’s history) would mark substantial turnover. That’s only happened three times (1973, 1997 and 2011) in the conference since World War I.
AROUND THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL WORLD IN 80 MINUTES
Reads of the week that should occupy less than an hour and a half:
USA Today’s Nicole Auerbach found the perfect person to help dissect Georgia Tech’s game-winning blocked field goal return for a touchdown against Florida State: Yellow Jackets special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski.
Chris Solari of the Lansing State Journal looks at the job Pittsburgh Coach Pat Narduzzi (formerly the defensive coordinator at Michigan State) is doing in his first season in Steel City.
This is from late last week, but worth sharing even now. Southern California AD Pat Haden hasn’t exactly fixed up the Trojans’ football program, and the Los Angeles Times shows he’s also kept unusually busy beyond the duties of his primary job.
Texas A&M’s quarterback situation is a mess after back-to-back losses, with a three-way competition this week. But here are four reasons the Aggies might be okay: South Carolina, Auburn, Western Carolina and Vanderbilt, a four-week stretch that could allow Kevin Sumlin’s team to get well regardless of who is taking snaps.