Time again for what was one of our regular features during the regular season — five questions and answers with a beat writer covering UW’s opponent. The Alamo Bowl against Baylor is obviously still a few weeks away — Dec. 29 in San Antonio, to be exact.
But I thought I’d catch up with a Baylor beat writer this week to allow fans to get an early look at Washington’s bowl opponent. So here are five of my questions and five answers on the Bears from John Werner of the Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald:
Q1: Can you briefly describe what kind of season this has been for Baylor and if it met the expectations fans had before the year started.
A: They’ve exceeded expectations (Phil Steele, for instance, picked Baylor eighth in the Big 12). For Baylor to finish 12th in the BCS standings is pretty astonishing considering its history in the Big 12. Quarterback Robert Griffin (pictured at right in a Getty Images photo) could win the Heisman, which would be a first in Baylor history.
Q2: Fourth-year head coach Art Briles appears to have done a great job turning Baylor around. Besides recruiting Robert Griffin III what else has he done to make a difference?
A: Briles has a great offensive mind, and has done an outstanding job of finding players to complement Griffin. The Bears have speed to match any team in the country offensively. Their defense is a work in progress, but hiring Phil Bennett (a former head coach at SMU) as defensive coordinator before this season was a coup. They’ve shown progress throughout the year.
Q3: And everyone knows about Griffin. What are some other keys to making the offense work?
A: Receiver Kendall Wright has caught a school-record 101 passes for 1,572 yards and 13 touchdowns while receivers Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson are all big-play receivers. Running back Terrance Ganaway is a big (6-foot,, 240 pounds), physical back with good speed who has rushed for a school-record 1,347 yards and 16 touchdowns. They’ve also got a huge offensive line that’s pretty athletic.
Q4: On paper, it seems like the defense has struggled a lot. Are the stats an accurate representation of the defense?
A: The defense is ranked near the bottom of the Big 12, but part of that is because offenses throughout the league are so explosive. Lately, the Bears have been forcing a lot of turnovers with 13 in the last three games. So they have improved.
Q5: Finally, is the Alamo Bowl a matchup that everyone there is excited about or where there higher expectations earlier in the year?
A: The Baylor fans are pretty excited. With Baylor having its best season in 25 years, they should pack the place. It could also be the last time they see Robert Griffin in a Baylor uniform if he chooses to go to the NFL after his junior year. Plus, San Antonio is a fun city to host a bowl.