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November 16, 2012

Baylor Blitz: The defense rests

Smith enjoying big season
K.J. Smith figured the only way he could have a big year this year was to play at his best when the numbers were against him.

He went through an entire spring facing double teams and developing the technique and upper body strength to fight through them. And it has paid off handsomely. The Baylor commit has unleashed his fury on the opposition with 19 sacks and 15 other quarterback hurries. That's 34 plays that have negatively affected the opponent's signal caller or 3.4 plays per game.

Now he leads Frisco Centennial (9-1) into the Class 4A Division I playoffs Friday against West Mesquite.

"I wanted to have more sacks this year and really continue to put last year behind me,'' Smith said. "It was a little frustrating but I just worked on my pass rush and go against extra people. I think it helped.''

Smith's commitment came out of nowhere in February shortly after he attended a Baylor junior day. The coaching staff - linebackers coach Jim Gush to be exact - offered him and it really has been a perfect match. There were other offers from TCU, Wake Forest, Houston and Northwester, but Smith knew he found a home in Waco.

"I know they needed a pass rush and I know I can help them,'' Smith said. "I looked at this as a great opportunity.''

At 6-2, 240, Smith will probably bulk up to about 265 whenever he sees the field at Baylor. His biggest asset is how well he moves laterally. He said he also has really worked on his swim move that can brush aside the double teams and permit him to get to the quarterback.

"I like to play really physical, and I want to pull people apart,'' he said. "I've really become more and more comfortable playing defensive end.''
--Kevin Lonnquist


Keep an eye on Mixon
While Baylor's coaching staff continues to search for help in the trenches, one name that has surfaced is 3-star West Mesquite defensive end Dimarya Mixon. When he recently de-committed from Arizona State it seemed to suggest that Oklahoma quickly became the leader.

However, Baylor may be getting into this. When asked Thursday if he was still interested in Baylor, Mixon said he was. Contact between him and the coaching staff was a little hit and miss but Mixon said he expects to hear from the coaching staff pretty soon.

We'll keep you posted should this recruiting effort takes another turn in Baylor's direction.
--Kevin Lonnquist


Charleston Classic: Baylor vs. Colorado
COLORADO BUFFALOES (2-0)
2011-12 results: 24-12, 11-7 in Pac 12


How 2011-12 ended: To many of these same Bears -- namely Brady Heslip. The Canadian sharpshooter had his best game of the year against the Buffs, nailing nine three-pointers, accounting for all of his 27 points. Colorado won the Pac 12 postseason tournament to get the auto bid, then upset UNLV in the round of 64 to advance to face Baylor.

How 2012-13 has started: After having a closer game than expected against Wofford, a team barely in the Kenpom.com's Top 200, the Buffs had a nice win over Dayton, 67-57, to advance to face a rematch against Baylor. CU has held both of its opponents this year under 60 points.

Breaking down the starting 5: Colorado lost three starters, but back are Askia Booker, the second-leading scorer last year despite coming off the bench, and Andre Roberson, an athletic forward who had 13 points and eight rebounds against Baylor last year. Guard Spencer Dinwiddie also returns after starting as a freshman. CU is getting a lot of contributions from true freshmen this year, too. 6-10 forward Josh Scott and 6-6 forward Xavier Johnson each scored in double figures against Dayton, with 15 and 13, respectively.

How the teams stack up against each other: The size of Colorado might force Baylor to run less of the three-guard sets. Roberson will give Baylor fits on the glass, while Scott and reserve Shane Harris-Tunks are both at least 6-10. Baylor only out-rebounded Boston College by four, so the Bears will need to step up the effort on the glass. Baylor will have the backcourt advantage, especially with Pierre Jackson off to a hot start.

Prediction: Kenpom.com ranks Colorado 57th in its team ratings but hasn't published a predicted score yet. But expect a close game. Colorado will be fired up to get revenge against Baylor -- as well as try to earn a quality win against a ranked opponent. And with its great size, CU should have a lot of success in the paint, especially if Cory Jefferson can't rebound from a bad game against Boston College. I'll say Baylor pulls this one out. The senior leadership of Jackson will help the Bears escape with a 73-70 win.
-- Jake Shaw


Big 12 Weekend
A look at the upcoming weekend action involving the Big 12 along with their TV listings. All times are Central. All rankings are BCS.

No. 23 Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3) at No. 24 Oklahoma State (6-3, 4-2)
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK. (FSN)
What to Watch:
This game is pretty much for bowl placement. Both teams are eligible. The Cowboys aren't sure if QB Wes Lunt will play but senior Clint Chelf played well last week against West Virginia. Texas Tech had to survive double overtime in a win over Kansas and plays its final two games away from Lubbock. Quarterback Seth Doege has thrown for more than 300 yards in five consecutive Big 12 games.

Iowa State (5-5, 2-5) at Kansas (1-9, 0-7)
6:00 p.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS. (FSN)
What to Watch:
An absolute must-win for the Cyclones because they are still one win shy of gaining bowl eligibility. But they have to be ready for the Jayhawks' running game, which is the second-best in the conference (213.1). While freshman quarterback Michael Cummings has not thrown for 100 yards in the last three weeks, running back James is second among all Big 12 backs with 875 rushing yards.

No. 12 Oklahoma (7-2, 5-1) at West Virginia (5-4, 2-4)
6:00 p.m. Saturday, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WVA (FOX)
What to Watch:
The bleeding continues for the Mountaineers who have surrendered at least 39 points in each Big 12 game. This is a matchup of the Sooners' strength - the passing game - against the Mountaineers' weakness - pass defense. Oklahoma is averaging 309 yards per game, which is actually fifth in the Big 12. West Virginia continues to be the nation's worst pass defense at 343.6.

No. 1 Kansas State (10-0, 7-0) at Baylor (4-5, 1-4)
7:00 p.m. Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco (ESPN)
What to Watch:
How good are the Wildcats? They are first in the conference in sacks (27), kickoff return average (29.0), committed the fewest penalties (32) and are first in turnover ratio (plus 20). QB Collin Klein wasn't sharp last week at TCU but had a key 34-yard TD run. Baylor's running game has taken shape with the emergence of Lache Seastrunk. The Bears have a chance to pull off the monumental upset if they protect the football. It's unknown if starting safety Ty Zimmerman (in a boot) and kick return specialist Tyler Lockett (ankle) will play or how effective either will be if he does play.
--Kevin Lonnquist



Big 12 Power Rankings
Each week, SicEmSports.com unveils its weekly power rankings. Agree or disagree, these make for great water cooler talk.
1. Kansas State - Wildcats have the second-best Red Zone defense (74.3%) in the conference
2. Oklahoma - Sooners averaging 37 points per game in Big 12 play
3. Texas - Longhorns have 400+ yards of total offense in eight of 10 games
4. Texas Tech - DL Kerry Hyder has 16.5 plays for losses behind the line of scrimmage
5. Oklahoma State - Despite QB issues, Cowboys are bowl eligible
6. TCU - Patterson to Arkansas rumors starting to appear
7. West Virginia - This four-game slide is epic
8. Iowa State - LB A.J. Klein's production dropping after necessary position switch
9. Baylor - QB Nick Florence has to bounce back from a tough outing last week at OU
10. Kansas - Is this the weekend the Jayhawks collect their first conference win?
--Kevin Lonnquist


Bowl projections
In August, we unveiled our inaugural Big 12 bowl projections. More than half of the conference membership - Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU and Texas Tech - is already bowl eligible.
Iowa State and West Virginia are each at five wins and should meet the minimum six before the regular season concludes on Dec. 1. Baylor is still in the running, but time is running out.
Of course, this is subject to change:

BCS Title Game - Kansas State. The Wildcats continue to be in good position here and the schedule is favorable.

BCS Fiesta - Oklahoma. Just keep winning, Sooners and the at large may take care of itself.

Cotton - Texas. If the Longhorns falter to 8-4, they likely will move around. But if they get here, it may not be against Texas A&M. LSU?

Alamo - Oklahoma State. The winner of the Texas Tech-Oklahoma State game this week likely goes to San Antonio.

Holiday - Texas Tech. The loser of the Texas Tech-Oklahoma State this week likely goes to San Diego.

Buffalo Wild Wings (formerly Insight) - Iowa State. If the Cyclones don't win at Kansas this weekend, they have a lot of pressure on them in the finale Nov. 23 against West Virginia.

New Era Pinstripe - West Virginia. This one still makes sense for the Mountaineers given their slide and the ease to get to New York City.

Meineke Car Care - TCU. The Horned Frogs can finish anywhere from 6-6 to 8-4. But it's making more sense to keep them in Texas. Their opponent in this game comes from the Big 10 and likely would be Minnesota.

Heart of Texas - Baylor. Of course, this is a longshot because the Bears have to find a way to get to six wins between Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. But the schedule is in their favor.
--Kevin Lonnquist


Emptying the notebook
We did another check and everything on greyshirt Kiante' Griffin still points to him arriving at Baylor when the spring semester begins in January.
--Kevin Lonnquist




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