After soaring to an 11-3 record and an Alamo Bowl victory behind Robert Griffin III last season, Baylor kicks off the 2012-2013 campaign with a lot of different faces and some hungry players looking to step up.
SMU posted an 8-5 record last season behind starting running back Zach Line and receiver Darius Johnson, who is currently battling a soar wrist.
This could end up being a high scoring game in the end. Here's a look at each team's season opener on Sunday.
Where: Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco, TX
When: Sunday, Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Listen: 1310 AM/104.1 FM (Dallas-Ft. Worth), Baylor IMG Sports Network
Betting Line: Baylor -9, Over/Under 58, via Bovada
What's At Stake?
Baylor is coming off an impressive 11-3 campaign that saw the program capture the Alamo Bowl in a 67-56 thriller against Washington.
On the other hand, star quarterback Robert Griffin III and star receiver Kendall Wright are in the NFL now. Griffin was a one-man wrecking crew last season en route to the Heisman Trophy. Wright racked up 108 receptions for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns.
That's not even mentioning Baylor's leading rusher last season, Terrance Ganaway, who racked up over 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.
It's no wonder why the Bears aren't ranked headed into their season opener. It should be an uphill battle this season.
SMU is coming off an 8-5 season, but has five new starters on the offensive line and a new quarterback in former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who is coming off shoulder surgery in September.
On the other hand, the Mustangs still have senior running back Zach Line, who rushed for 1,224 yards and 17 touchdowns last season on 5.9 yards per carry. He will be crucial for their offense to get off the ground.
There's also the fact that SMU has the second-most returning starters on defense in Conference USA. The growth of the defense will be key for the Mustangs to notch another solid season.
SMU will be looking to capture its third division championship in four seasons.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
WR Darius Johnson—Wrist—Probable
RB Zach Line—Foot—Probable
DB James Richardson—Knee—OUT for season
DT Kaeron Johnson—Back—OUT for season
SMU Player to Watch: Zach Line, RB
Before posting huge numbers last season, Zach Line collected 1,494 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 6.1 yards per carry, as well as adding 163 receiving yards.
Line is certainly no fluke.
Line is going to need some help from his new offensive line, but he has the game-changing ability to make some spectacular plays, regardless of the circumstances.
Baylor allowed 5.2 yards per carry last season, the third-worst mark in the Big 12.
Baylor Player to Watch: Terrance Williams, WR
With Wright gone, senior Terrance Williams is going to have to step up even more for the Bears.
Williams may have been overshadowed by Wright and Griffin last season, but he quietly had an impressive season, racking up 957 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on just 59 catches (16.2 yards per catch).
Williams has the skill set to be a No. 1 receiver for Baylor with senior quarterback Nick Florence tossing him the pigskin.
Key Matchup: Baylor Passing Attack vs. SMU Defense
Baylor may have lost some key starters, but they still have Terrance Williams and junior Tevin Reese, who posted 877 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 51 catches last season (17.2 yards per reception). Some people believe Reese is going to break out this season.
Big things are also expected of Nick Florence under center this season for the Bears. The coaching staff has been adamant that the drop-off won't be too significant.
The linebacking corps will be key for SMU to slow Baylor down. It's arguably the best unit on the team, led by seniors Taylor Reed (101 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks last season) and Ja'Gared Davis (83 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks).
SMU could also use some more plays in the secondary, notching just six picks all of last season (fewest in Conference USA).
Prediction: Baylor 27, SMU 21
I know Baylor doesn't have Griffin, Wright or Ganaway anymore, but I think Nick Florence will surprise and they have a running back in Lache Seastrunk who could do some damage this season.
I do think SMU will hold its own, behind Line and June Jones' masterful aerial attack, but I just think Baylor will score a bit more. This should be a good game and some are even calling for an upset.
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