VTM: What is it about Art Briles, other than being a Texas Tech grad, that has turned Baylor Football into what it is, when so many other were unable to really jump start the program?
ODB: Briles brought an identity to Baylor that it had never had before, or at least not in a generation since Teaff retired. And I don't necessarily mean a specific identity; I mean any identity at all. The culture of losing had become so pervasive at Baylor that the whole process was circular. Briles brought excitement, a unique offensive system that could be successful with less-talented players, and, of course, a certain Heisman-winning QB that flipped to Baylor after his hire. From there, he's continued to build to the point that we're trying to win 3 Big 12 titles in a row, something only OU has done in the history of the conference (I think).
VTM: Baylor's offensive production is up, compared to last year. Is the offense feeling the loss of Bryce Petty at all?
ODB: Not yet, but a lot of that is probably due to the level of defensive competition we've faced. Make no mistake about it-- Bryce Petty is, in my estimation, the second-best QB to come through Baylor in the last few decades. But at the same time, he also had some notable faults, like a marked unwillingness to throw the ball into tight spaces, a lack of mobility as compared to others in the system, etc. It's still early in his tenure as the starting QB, but I like what I've seen from Seth Russell replacing him.
VTM: Through three games, it seems that Seth Russell is being allowed to drive the Ferrari in the parking lot, but not open it up on the highway. Is it more of just getting his feet wet, or are there just so many weapons he doesn't need to be the "be all" on offense?
ODB: A little from column A, a little from column B, I think. Because of our opponents being SMU, Lamar, and Rice, Baylor hasn't really needed to open things up. Also, we've clearly attempted to highlight the running game so far in three games. But despite those things, I'd say Seth has revved up the engine just a bit and may get to take the car on the real road pretty soon.
VTM: Art Briles has been extremely loyal to Phil Bennett with regards to how his defense performs. Is there any concern on the defensive side of the ball and is Phil Bennett's seat getting hot at all? Or is it just, who cares as long as we win?
ODB: Depends on who you ask. There's a very vocal minority (or even a majority, I don't know) that still aren't completely happy with Phil Bennett's performance as DC despite improvement over the last couple of years. Those people point to relatively disappointing recruiting, a seeming inability to slow down spread offenses (like that's the easiest thing in the world, right?), and our cornerbacks JUST NOT TURNING THEIR D***ED HEADS!!! For me, I feel like Bennett was definitely the right hire at the time, but the jury is still out on whether he can take Baylor's defense where it needs to go to reach our ultimate goal of winning a national championship.
As for the temperature of Bennett's seat-- I'm of the opinion that Art won't fire one of his best friends in the whole world unless he has to.
VTM: Do you like the setup of this being a neutral site game or would you like to see a return to a home and home format now that Baylor has a new stadium and frenzied fan base?
ODB: A lot of Baylor fans would disagree with me about bringing this one back to the campuses, but I kinda like the neutral site setup. I've been to the game 3 of the last 4 years and really enjoyed the change-of-pace, particularly in the DFW area, although all three of the games I went to were before we had McLane Stadium. I hope you guys get the chance to see it soon.
VTM: For the longest time, Baylor and Texas Tech had a one-sided rivalry. Tech fans always viewed Baylor as Texas viewed Tech... not really worth my time. Since the departure of Leach, Tech has gone one way and almost inversely, Baylor the other. Now that Baylor has a Heisman winner, Big 12 championships and 5 game win streak over Tech... how does Baylor view Tech?
ODB: I don't know if the feelings have completely switched since I'm not sure if Baylor has had enough sustained success to feel "safe" like it sounds like Tech once did, but Baylor probably doesn't view Tech as its equal on the field at this point (or in terms of the program). As KK continues to rebuild, I'm sure that pendulum will swing back toward the center.
VTM: Is it safe to say that, as many Baylor fans claim, the universe was created in 2011?
ODB: I'll have to disagree with you on how most Baylor fans see the world. We carry the scars of Reedy, Roberts, Steele, and Morriss as part of who we are and as evidence of how far we've come. Baylor fans would rather talk about post-2011, to be sure, but that's more the avoidance of tremendous pain than an attempt to deny history, I think.
VTM: Give me a player or two on both sides of the ball to look for on Saturday.
ODB: I'll go with two lesser-known names since you guys probably know all about Corey Coleman, Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings, etc: NB Travon Blanchard, who played really well against Rice and is an exciting player at a pivotal spot, particularly against a team that uses slot receivers like you guys, and Johnny Jefferson. With Devin Chafin at least limited in this game, I expect Jefferson to get a big chance behind Shock Linwood to run the ball.
VTM: Keys to the game for Baylor?
ODB: Cover Jakeem Grant, if possible. Establish the run to set up the play-action pass. Contain the QB in the pocket and rush the heck out of him.
VTM: Tech gets the upset if...?
ODB: Tech's defense can bottle up the run inside without safety help, while ripping up Baylor's linebackers and safeties through the air.
ODB: You're going to be shocked, but I like Baylor to win this game and cover the spread. I think the Bears found the edge they'd been missing a week ago, and that they just have too many weapons on offense. Tech will score points because you have a powerful offense that we are not well-suited to stop (at least, as it appears so far), but Baylor's offense will just be too much, particularly on the ground.