Scout's Baylor Site Game Preview

Johnathan Franklin

The Scout.com Baylor site, BearsIllustrated.com, breaks down the Holiday Bowl from a Baylor perspective...

Part 1: A Look at the Individual Bruin Standouts

For the second year in a row, the Bears will be facing a team from the Pac-12 conference with an excellent senior running back and an athletic freshman quarterback throwing to one of the better tight ends in the country. While UCLA is a much more balanced team due to their defense, they will give us some familiar looks on the offensive side of the ball that Washington gave us last year.

-Jonathan Franklin – Senior Running Back

With over 2000 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns on the year, Franklin will be one of the better running backs the Bears have seen this year. The senior tailback is a quick runner with solid speed and is also pretty dangerous in the open field. He is an experienced player with a ton of starts and carries under his belt. A two-time 1000 yard rusher, Franklin developed more in the passing game this year, as he caught 32 passes out of the back field.

At 5-10, he is a smaller back that does not get a ton of yardage after contact, but is very good at making players miss. The Baylor defensive line will have to be disciplined in their gaps, as Franklin likes to cut the ball back and hit the defense on the other side of the play. If the Baylor defenders over commit, Franklin can cut and turn on the jets and easily get into the defensive backfield.

-Brett Hundley – Freshman Quarterback

As a redshirt freshman, there were a ton of expectations heaped on the young signal caller, but he responded brilliantly from the start. On his first play from scrimmage against Rice, Hundley took the snap and ran 72 yards down the sideline for his first career touchdown. From that point though, his arm would be the more powerful weapon. While he is an athletic player who can run, watching him this year, he definitely wants to throw first and at times seemed tentative to pull the ball down and go.

Hundley attempted 151 rushes but only gained 365 yards for a 2.4 yard per rush average. Even for a quarterback who has sacks taken out of his rushing totals, that is not a very efficient rushing attack. His arm though was very efficient, as he completed 68.2% of his passes and only threw 11 interceptions. He was incredibly effective in Goal to Go situations, where he threw for 11 touchdowns and just 1 interception. He threw the ball away quite a bit to save the drive, as he completed only 15 of 25 passes, but that is what you want from an experienced quarterback, nonetheless a freshman.

-Anthony Barr – Junior Linebacker

In their 3-4 defensive front, Barr is the one that attacks the passer. Normally you would say rush or blitz, but those would not be an accurate depiction of what Barr does. He attacks. Just simply attacks whoever is in front of him on the way to the quarterback. He had 13.5 sacks on the season along with 20.5 tackles for loss.

Barr, a wide receiver until this year, is a great athlete for the position and has exceptional speed along with natural instincts for rushing the passer. He primarily lines up on the left side as the outside linebacker. He has a relentless motor, as he commonly chases down ball carriers from behind and will not stop on the play. He does have a few pass rush moves, but his best is by far the speed rush move to the outside. The young Baylor tackles have handled some real good defensive ends this year, but Barr might be the most talented.

- Eric Kendricks – Sophomore Linebacker

The other star linebacker for the Bruins is on the inside, and plays a much different game than Barr. Kendricks mans the weakside linebacker spot, and his main job is in the running game and purely tackling anything he can find. Luckily for Bruins fans, he did that extremely well in 2012, as he racked up a team high 137 tackles.

Eric, the younger brother of Pac-12 Defensive Player of the year and 2012 second round draft choice Mychal, is a traditional inside linebacker with good mobility. He is another very active linebacker with good size and strength. He is a sturdy tackler and knows how to read an offense as he has been playing the position for a long time.

-Joseph Fauria – Senior Tight End

Just call him Mr. Touchdown for the Bruins. The 6-7 physical beast of a tight end has caught 11 touchdowns on the year, 9 more than any other UCLA receiver. He is the go to guy in the red-zone and is a good enough blocker to keep defenses honest, though that is by far not his strong suit. He is a pass catcher, who is getting better at running routes, though he still has quite a bit of room to improve. But if you put him in a one on one position with one single read and the end zone close, you know he is getting the ball. In fact, before the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford, he caught a touchdown pass in 5 straight games. He will be a tough matchup for the Bears, as they don't have anyone close to his size to matchup with in the short yardage situations or the red zone.


PART 2:

Baylor and UCLA are getting together to get into a good old fashioned Bear fight. Which name will reign superior over the other? Which team will have bragging rights as the superior way to name an ursus arctos?

Baylor Offense versus UCLA Defense

Scoring

Passing

Yards / Pass

Rushing

Yards / Rush

Total Yards

Yards / Play

Yards / Point

Points / Play

Baylor O

43.7

357

9.3

224.9

5

581.9

6.9

13.3

0.519

Rank

3

3

3

17

19

1

1

38

8

UCLA D

25.9

255.4

7.1

154.6

4.1

410

5.3

15.8

0.335

Rank

48

87

54

50

49

68

44

37

41

The Bears offense is going to have the advantage over pretty much every defense in the country, save for one or two. This is statistically the best offense in the country, as they lead the country in total yards, are top 3 in points, and boast one of the most balanced attacks in the nation. Needless to say, the Bears have a really good offense.

The Bruins have a solid defense on paper, but really I think their stats are a bit inflated. The Pac-12 is not known for explosive offenses, except for one. Oregon is in the conversation for best offense in the country as well, and UCLA didn't get to play them. Hurray for bigger conferences that doesn't do a round-robin format. This is GREAT for college football fans. Anways, UCLA played a pretty lackluster schedule in terms of offenses. These are the ranks for the Offensive Yards per game that the UCLA defense saw: 46, 27, 17, 47, 119, 80, 113, 38, 9, 94, 29, 83, and 83.

That averages out to #60, which is in the Arkon/Wisconsin/Northwestern range. So, the average offense they played was a middle of the pack Big 10 offense. The only offense in the Top 15 was Arizona and well, UCLA just beat the tar out of them 66-10. The Wildcats had just 257 total yards, and averaged 3.7 yards per play. So, what can we make out of this? Well, UCLA got ahead by so much that Arizona had to turn one-dimensional, which is bad news for any offense (just ask Baylor pre-Lache breakout).

Now, please do not take this as bashing the UCLA defense. They are a good defense, one that is better than Texas but probably not as good as TCU's. They have amazing playmakers at the linebacker position and they are elite at sacking the passer with 3.5 sacks per game being the 3rd best in the country (8.81% of pass attempts end in a sack, 6th best in the country). The Bears tackles and tight ends will have to keep the pocket clean for Nick Florence and allow the Baylor receivers time to get down the field.

With such a great pass rush that nothing in the Big 12 can come close to matching, I expect the Bears to do more running plays on first down along with quicker routes. We might not see as many double moves or longer pass progressions early, in an attempt to get the pass rushers slowing down. Also, is this the game we finally see the screen game involving the running backs? It would seem to be a good time to me, especially to the side of Anthony Barr.

Baylor Defense versus UCLA Offense

Scoring

Passing

Yards / Pass

Rushing

Yards / Rush

Total Yards

Yards / Play

Yards / Point

Points / Play

Baylor D

39.5

326.5

7.5

196.7

4.9

523.3

6.2

13.2

0.469

Rank

117

122

75

92

97

122

99

87

101

UCLA O

35.1

271.6

8

203

4.6

474.6

5.8

13.5

0.431

Rank

24

36

23

24

39

18

38

40

39

It is getting better. Over the past 3 or 4 games, it has gotten better. We are not seeing nearly as many triple digit numbers in the Baylor defense column. While still not a great, or possibly even good defense, it is not a tragically bad one anymore. They are not setting decades old records for their futility, especially on 3rd down. The Bears rush defense has actually been pretty reputable over the past month of the season, only allowing 167 yards per game. While not great, it is middle of the pack in the nation.

If you have to pick one area of weakness for the Bears defense it is still the passing game. They allow a tremendous amount of short pass completions, and allow them at a very high rate. This is due to the corners playing off of the line and our lack of a pass rush. UCLA is not setup to really beat that. Hundley has been accurate, but he is better over the middle or in deeper routes than those quick outs and curl routes that the Bears struggle with.

The strength of the UCLA is their running game, and setting up plays to go deep over the middle. Jonathan Franklin is an excellent running back, and someone the Bears will have to key on. Does Phil Bennett instruct his defense to play closer to the line of scrimmage and go after the running attack of UCLA, or do they play off like they normally do and let the offense get 4-6 yards per play easily and then hope they make a mistake.

UCLA has been susceptible to pass rushes, as they have the 109th highest ask percentage allowed in the country (8.83%). I expect the Bears to try and get them into 3rd and longer than 7, and use some of those blitzes that worked against Oklahoma State and Kansas State later in the year to get pressure on Hundley. While he is an athletic quarterback, he has not shown a tremendous ability to break big runs. I don't know if it is hesitancy to run or if he just doesn't have great vision, but getting Hundley to run has not proven to be a terrible thing.

This is a good offense though, as it looks an awful lot like Baylor 2 years ago, except without as much of a running threat at quarterback. They are really successful running the ball, and can hit the big play down the middle of the field.


PART THREE

Statistical Comparison:

This is one of the more even matchups for the Bears this year in terms of their advanced measurement profiles, as UCLA and Baylor are within 4.5 spots of each other in terms of their average placement in the FootballOutsiders.com rankings. Baylor has the advantage in FEI, where they are a Top 20 team due to the Bears excellent performance against good teams this year.

FO Categories

Baylor

UCLA

FEI Rank

19

27

F/+ Rank

38

28

S&P+ Rank

36

32

GE Rank

46

34

Average

34.75

30.25

The Bears are also seeing a steady rise in their overall profile, particularly due to an improving defense. Just two games ago, before the Texas Tech game, the Bears defensive average was 94.375 and now it is 87.625. That is a very big jump so late in the year with just 2 more games of data.

Baylor O Rank

UCLA D Rank

Advantage

FEI

1

25

BAYLOR

F/+

2

32

BAYLOR

S&P+

15

44

BAYLOR

Rush S&P+

8

36

BAYLOR

Pass S&P+

17

54

BAYLOR

Standard Downs S&P+

9

61

BAYLOR

Passing Downs S&P+

10

14

BAYLOR

Success Rate

7

46

BAYLOR

Average

8.625

39

BAYLOR

Baylor D Rank

UCLA O Rank

Advantage

FEI

99

25

UCLA

F/+

92

25

UCLA

S&P+

81

23

UCLA

Rush S&P+

75

40

UCLA

Pass S&P+

81

18

UCLA

Standard Downs S&P+

65

23

UCLA

Passing Downs S&P+

93

37

UCLA

Success Rate

115

48

UCLA

Average

87.625

29.875

UCLA

TOTAL

48.125

34.4375

UCLA

As we see, the Bears defense is still lagging quite a bit, but it is getting more and more respectable. The offense is still carrying its weight, and if anything is getting slightly better as well due to the much improved running attack. Overall, we give the advanced statistic edge to UCLA, though it is not a very big one.

Marquee Matchup:

This is a new feature that I wanted to debut for the Bowl game. I will go over one matchup, be it player on player or position versus position that will have a big say in the game. For the Holiday Bowl, I am going with the Bears Running backs versus the UCLA Linebackers. This is star group versus star group.

For the Bears you have three experienced runners, headlined by the Thunder and Lightning duo of Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk. For UCLA, they have 4 starting linebackers, but I want to focus on the two inside guys, who will be more involved in the running game than the outside guys. Jordan Zumwalt, a 6-4 235 lb. junior and Eric Kendricks, a 6-2 230 lb. sophomore are the main guys in the middle. They both have good size and speed, though Kendricks is the better player and athlete at this time.

They are both strong enough to take Martin head on, as they compare favorably to the Iowa State linebacker group starring A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. As you remember, the Bears struggled to run at all against Iowa State, though that was Pre-LS (Lache Seastrunk). How the Bears block against the two middle linebackers and if Martin and Seastrunk can make those guys miss and gain extra years will be the marquee matchup in this game.

Keys to the Game:

1. Protect Nick Florence-

UCLA is not an elite defense, but they do one thing at a very good level, and that is rush the passer. They rank 14th in passing downs S&P+, which is defined as 2nd down and 8 or more yards to go and 3rd or 4th down with 5 yards to go or more. Their pass rush is so effective out of their 3-4 look, with outside linebacker Anthony Barr leading the way. He has 13.5 sacks on the year and has turned himself into one of the best rushing linebackers in college football.

However, he is not a one-man pass rush, as Cassius Marsh, Damien Holmes, and Dantone Jones all have 5 sacks or more on the year. All three play on the defensive line, and they do a great job of getting into the back field with just a 3-man front. The Bears line will have to make sure that they first stay out of obvious passing down, but if they do get behind the chains, they will have to give Florence time in the pocket or UCLA will make him pay.

2. Force UCLA to throw –

While UCLA does have a potent passing attack, I do believe the main reason for their success in the air is their stellar ground attack. Jonathan Franklin is probably the best running back the Bears will see all year. He is very quick with the ball, and can cut up a defense with ease. He is not great at breaking tackles or powering through contact, but he is great at missing those tackles all together.

The Baylor front has to hold him to less than 4 yards a carry on early downs to setup 2nd and 6 or more. That way, with an incomplete pass or negative play, they are in an obvious passing down. Those are the only downs that the Bears have been able to generate a pass rush. When the Bears are confident the other team will throw, their pass defense is much better (as all teams probably are).

3. Don't turn Hundley into Keith Price

Last year, the Bears turned a young dual threat quarterback in his first bowl game into a star that had 7 total touchdowns (4 passing, 3 running). Needless to say, they probably won't be able to do that two years in a row and win. Price just controlled the game and threw pinpoint passes all over the field, and ran through the Baylor defense for another 147 yards. He was brilliant. While Hundley is not the runner that Price is, he is probably a better thrower. Baylor has to corral him and get him out of the pocket where his tentativeness to run/pass has hurt him a bit.

4. Test the shuffled defensive backfield of UCLA –

With news that Tevin McDonald, starting strong safety for the Bruins, will be suspended for the Holiday Bowl, Tevin Reese must have felt that Christmas arrived early. The Baylor slot receiver and deep threat extraordinaire, will have a new starter lined up with him some plays, and anytime it is a slower safety or a linebacker, you just know that Reese will be going deep with his hand raised begging for the ball.

Baylor's strength in numbers of pure offensive weapons will be something that UCLA has not seen. The Bears should be able to spread them out and get a few deep passes on them. Watch out for Levi Norwood here, who has been coming on of late. Norwood had a huge game against Oklahoma State with 7 catches for 71 yards, which followed a 3 catch for 55 yards game and a touchdown against Texas Tech.

5. TURNOVERS! –

You knew it was coming. You don't think I am going away from the turnover train yet, do you? This is job #1 for the Bears as far as I am concerned. They have to get turnovers, at least two, and win or worst case tie in the turnover margin battle. This is not up for negotiation here people. Baylor wins the turnover battle equals a win a startling percentage of the time.

UCLA does fumble the ball a lot (1.7 per game, 82nd in the country) and they do a terrible job of recovering them (just 36.36% - 96th). The Bears will have to get their hands on those footballs and make sure they recover the after they hit the ground.

Prediction: UCLA wins 49-47

If you asked me to put this game on a confidence meter, it would be pretty low. This is a really good and even matchup, and one that has advantages for both sides. UCLA is a truly balanced team, ranking 25th in FEI according to FootballOutsiders in both offense and defense. While their defense has not played many high powered offenses, their offense has played some good defenses. They are a balanced offense with a great running back and an improving freshman quarterback.

The Baylor Bears though are a hot team, one that has won 4 of 5 games, and with their running attack being reborn along with an improving defense, they could have lined up and taken on any team at the end of the year. However, long breaks tend to hurt the offenses more, and that is the bread and butter for the Bears.

I fear Baylor coming out a bit cold, trying to get the passing game going which allows the UCLA defense to settle in and get used to the speed of the Bears. I also think UCLA's offense is better suited for such a long break, as they can just give it to Franklin and get out of his way. The Bears offense relies so much on timing and rhythm, even the rushing attack with all of its wrinkles needs to have the right flow to it to work fully.

I also expect the defense to take a step back as they were playing so well late in the year, that the time off probably hurt them as well, similar to what we saw last year against Washington. The defense was playing good football at the end of the year, and the break took away all of that. Can the Baylor defense overcome that this year?

In the end, it will be a comeback that falls just short, as the Bears lose their bowl game and look forward to getting back to their winning ways in 2013.

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