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Texas Happy To Welcome Baylor "Defense" To Town

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Manny Diaz isn't going to be the only embattled defensive coordinator on the field Saturday night in Austin, as Baylor's Phil Bennett has come under fire for running a "bend-but-still-break defense."

Justin K. Aller - Getty Images

There are some clear tenets to the Bennett defensive plan, which is brilliantly conceived to give up yards, points, and third-down conversions, representing an innovative cure-all for offensive issues.

Third-down conversions

To say the Horned Frogs had some success against the Baylor defense on third downs would be an understatement -- new quarterback Trevone Boykin threw all four of his touchdown passes on third down, while TCU converted 13 of 15 overall.

Even more damning from the Baylor perspective is the fact that many of them weren't short third downs either. In fact, eight of them were converted by gaining eight or more yards, with conversions of 15, 16, and 18 yards.

On the season, Baylor is dead last in the country, allowing opponents to convert almost 64% of their opportunities on third down into first downs. The second-worst team in the Big 12, the Longhorns, hold opponents to 25% fewer conversions.

How did it happen?

Mark C. Moore over at Our Daily Bears broke it down:

We tried to send more pressure this game than at any previous point in the season, but it didn't work because the QB could get the ball away fast enough. Our DBs were lined up so far off that the blitz couldn't get there. We combined a relatively weak blitz with soft coverage. Of course Boykin destroyed us. Whatever the reason for the strategic decision, we doubled-down tactically by never changing. We didn't adjust at all as the game went on.

Matching blitzes and coverages is hardly rocket science for a competent defensive coordinator, but it appears that Bennett does not fall under that classification.

Poor defensive schemes

If Diaz is quickly become known for running unsound defensive schemes, Bennett is known for making odd decisions, like rushing three defensive linemen most of the game against West Virginia and using the remaining eight players in coverage.

Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith responded by completing 25 of 28 attempts in those situations for 410 yards. Yet, Bennett never seemed to adjust, and didn't seem to demonstrate any learning from the Maryland defensive gameplan that actually worked, in which the Terps were able to bring pressure rushing four and mixing up looks and coverage with some blitzes thrown in.

Inability to make game-changing plays

Last season, the Oklahoma State Cowboys gave up a lot of yards every game, about 457, to be precise, but finished first in the country in turnover margin because Bill Young's group forced 44 turnovers on the season.

The Baylor defense could compensate for all the yards given up and all the third-down conversions allowed, except the defensive isn't coming up with many big plays, forcing 10 turnovers on the season, which is good for 69th in the country.

As the following comments will indicate, the advanced metrics look just as bad as the raw, unadjusted numbers.

The advanced metrics

Even after looking rather foolish quoting the advanced metrics last week attempting to build a case that the Texas defense wasn't as bad as it looked this season, I just can't quit them, so I'm going to cite a few for Baylor.

The Longhorns still look much better after adjusting for opponent quality, with a major discrepancy between those numbers in S&P+ and the raw data.

Baylor is terrible in both, ranking 114th in the unadjusted S&P and 107th in S&P+. By the F/+ ratings, Baylor is the 122nd-best defense in the country. Add in a ranking of 107th in points per possession and 110th in success rate and things continue to look awful.

It's also an equal-opportunity defense, performing poorly against the run (101), the pass (100), on standards downs (98) and on passing downs (111).

The cure for all ails?

The Texas offensive line couldn't get any movement against the Oklahoma defensive line, but the Baylor front is quite the movable object, as opponents are averaging a healthy 4.44 yards per carry against Bennett's crew, which ranks 82nd in the country.

And the secondary may be the worst in the country, returning the same group that gave up so many long passing plays to Case McCoy last season before turning his low-velocity throws outside into interceptions in the second half.

The gameplan by co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin against Oklahoma was overly conservative, but the good news is that a reprise of that strategy against Baylor should net much better results.