|Bears coach Art Briles led his team to an easier-than-expected 59-24 win over SMU. (Getty Images)|
Big 12 Coach of the Week: Art Briles, Baylor
Baylor was supposed to have as many question marks as any team in the Big 12 heading into the season. At least in an opening rout over SMU, the Bears answered all those questions emphatically.
It just wasn't supposed to be so easy for Baylor on opening weekend, but coach Art Briles and company rolled to a 59-24 win over the Mustangs on Sunday, offering Bears fans hope that the loss of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and star RB Terrance Ganaway would not derail hopes of another solid season in Waco.
Indeed, the offense looked more than fine and the replacements for those stars of 2011's 10-win campaign seemed plenty capable of leading the charge this season. Baylor finished with 613 yards of offense, as Nick Florence (the quarterback with the unenviable task of replacing RG3) played like the senior he is, finishing with 341 yards passing and four touchdowns before heading to the bench to watch the fourth quarter.
The running game seems to be in fine hands even without Ganaway, as Baylor players combined to average 6.9 yards per carry on 32 attempts in the easy win, adding another pair of scores in the process.
Teams simply aren't supposed to replace that sort of talent offensively without skipping a beat, but at least for one week, Baylor did. That's a testament to Briles and his staff, who served notice that their predicted finish in the Big 12 (seventh in the league's preseason media poll) may have been far too low.
Baylor has the weapons to compete with Florence, RB Jarred Salubi and receiver Terrance Williams. The questions that remain are almost all on the defensive side, where BU gave up 507 yards and 24 points to SMU.
But any potential weaknesses there could be masked if the team continues to generate turnovers as it did in the opener, when it picked off a pair of Mustang QB Garrett Gilbert's passes and added a fumble recovery for good measure.
If there was any doubt that the Big 12 is one of the country's deepest conferences, Baylor's performance should have ended it. It's tough to imagine the team predicted to finish seventh in any other major conferences putting on a performance like this one against a respectable opponent in the season-opener.
For having his team prepared for life without RG3 and company, Briles is our RapidReports Big 12 Coach of the Week. He and the Bears can rest easily this weekend, as they have an off week before facing Sam Houston State on Sept. 15.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).