There is no football history between North Carolina and Baylor. They will play each other for the first time Tuesday in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Given the unfamiliarity between the teams, there’s no shame in not knowing all that much about the Bears. But we’re here to help with this – four things to know about Baylor:
Baylor is new to the whole being-a-powerhouse thing
The Bears have won at least 10 games in three of the past four seasons – and would do it again with a victory against UNC – but that kind of success isn’t exactly the norm for Baylor. Before this recent stretch Baylor hadn’t won 10 games since 1980. And the Bears endured 14 consecutive losing seasons between 1996 and 2009.
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Baylor coach Art Briles and UNC coach Larry Fedora share a history
When Fedora was an assistant coach at Baylor during the early 1990s he recruited a quarterback named Branndon Stewart from Stephenville (Texas) High. The coach there: Art Briles. Fedora lost Stewart to Tennessee, where he eventually transferred to Texas A&M after the emergence of Peyton Manning. Fedora and Briles recounted Stewart’s recruitment Monday. Said Fedora: “Getting to know Art and what they were doing (offensively) and watching how they practiced and all the things they did, it was really impressive back then.”
The Bears have been decimated by injuries
It’d be difficult to conjure a more nightmarish injury situation than the one Baylor has been enduring of late. The Bears enter the Russell Athletic Bowl without their top two quarterbacks (Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham), without their best receiver (Corey Coleman) and without their best running back (Shock Linwood). Did we mention Coleman won the Biletnikoff Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top receiver? So if the Bears are underwhelming Tuesday just remember: they’re not exactly the team that began the season 8-0.
All spreads are not created equal
UNC runs a spread offense. Baylor runs a spread offense. UNC ranks first nationally in yards per play. Baylor is second. So – they run the same offense, right? Not exactly. The Tar Heels and Bears run different variations. Baylor’s version more utilizes the entire width of the field. Don’t be surprised to see receivers lined up out wide – way wide. As in, a yard away from the sideline. The Bears will use some alignments that UNC hasn’t faced.