Duke holds off Baylor, 34-20
Baylor (0-2) at Duke (2-0)
Site: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.
Time/Day: 11:30 a.m, Saturday
TV/Radio: FSN/ESPN Central Texas
Betting Line: Duke -14 1/2
Series: Duke leads, 1-0
Sometimes, it's just good to get out of town for a change of scenery. It can clear the mind, offer a fresh perspective and allow you to forget about all of the struggles.
Whatever works, right?
Well, Baylor is hoping that Saturday's early afternoon on the East Coast against Duke could serve as the right medicine to give the season a boost as the Big 12 season looms.
With a roster that is rattled with injuries and freshman learning through baptism on the fly, few would expect the Bears to be able to stay with the Blue Devils.
But that's why you go out and play the games. Baylor continues to shake up the lineup. For starters, sophomore quarterback Zach Smith makes his first start of the season for the injured and ineffective Anu Solomon.
Smith may or may not be the answer for the Bears long term. However, he has familiarity with most of the skill players. That relationship could mean something.
Other lineup changes are Sam Tecklenburg as the new starting center, Davion Hall penciled in as the starter (he did start last week but wasn't listed as the starter) and Deionte Williams at defensive end.
Baylor got a little good news as injured defensive back Grayland Arnold made the trip East. He's not expected to play. But if he does, it would be pretty miraculous considering he broke his arm Aug. 26. The initial thinking was that he would be out 6-8 weeks. We'll see.
Injured defensive tackle K.J. Smith (shin splints) did not make the trip. So the Bears will be down one in the defensive line rotation.
Here are some elements to look for
>A string of QBs - Duke's Daniel Jones (completing 68 percent of his passes) is the first of string of top flight quarterbacks this secondary over the next five weeks. He's also under the tutelage of one of the best college quarterback teachers in the game in head coach Dave Cutcliffe. Jones will be followed by Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, Kansas State's Jesse Ertz, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph and West Virginia's Will Grier. As for Jones, he's a little stiff in how he moves. However, his arm is solid.
>The exchange - There's nothing like familiarity to bring a sense of calm to a team. It may sound odd to consider the snap from center to quarterback as part of it. However, it means something. The reps that Zach Smith likely had with Sam Tecklenburg over the spring and summer could be something Baylor head coach Matt Rhule examined as he was making the switch from freshman Ryan Miller to Tecklenburg.
>Who is next? - Baylor has already played 14 in its 2017 class. There's still a chance a few more could play. It would probably be Rhule's choice not to do it. But it's going to depend on who could serve a role.
>Winning football - The Bears could use a little momentum on 3rd down. It's pretty much been a nightmare play for this team. They are converting at 26 percent. They are also allowing opponents to convert well beyond 50 percent.
It's Red Zone magic for the Bears. They have scored touchdowns on five of six possessions. The other resulted in a field goal.
Keys to the Game
>Fast, no faster - If any team needed a fast start to a game, it's been the Bears. They have led for only a total of about five minutes of clock time thus far. This team needs to experience some success. It doesn't matter which way it comes. It just has to happen.
>Get off the Field! - Baylor's first two opponents, Liberty and UTSA, each held the ball for 38 minutes. Duke has won the clock battle in its first two games of the season including 41 minutes in last week's win over Northwestern. Baylor's defense has to come up with stops and create a turnover or two. This unit hasn't done that.
>Return of the Zach - He probably should have been named the starting QB when the season began. But that doesn't matter anymore. Smith gets the keys to the offense. Now, he has to demonstrate that he can direct this new offense - something that's a 180 he had when he was recruited by Art Briles - and put his offense in winning plays.
I do think Baylor will come out ready to prove that these first two games are history. I expect the Bears to play better and believe they can hang in there. Phil Snow will have to dial up blitzes and change coverages to try and show Jones some different looks.
But the problem is that is this is a game of 60 minutes. Depth and strength usually show up. This is the Bears playing 14 freshmen and not having a lot of great size across the front seven could eventually catch up with them. That's also asking a lot of a young secondary.
Score: Duke 38, Baylor 21