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Where: Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco, Texas
With the explosive combination of Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright in the NFL, Baylor begins anew with an old Southwest Conference rival in Southern Methodist on Sunday. While quarterback Nick Florence cannot be expected to replace Griffin’s production, it will not be the first time the senior signal-caller will be asked to fill in for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, like he did when Griffin was lost for the year early in 2009. Wide receiver Terrance Williams returns to lead a group of three returning receivers who caught at least 42 passes last season. SMU, which will join the Big East Conference in all sports next July, begins its final season in Conference USA after closing 2011 with an impressive victory over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
ABOUT SMU (2011: 8-5, 5-3 C-USA): Running back Zach Line puts some bite into the ground game of coach June Jones’ run-and-shoot offense. The two-time All-Conference USA selection has led the league in rushing in each of the past two seasons, but the addition of quarterback Garrett Gilbert – a University of Texas transfer – could make this offense special. The Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2009, Gilbert threw two touchdown passes in the Longhorns’ BCS title game loss to Alabama that same year and started every game for Texas in 2010 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury early last season.
ABOUT BAYLOR (2011: 10-3, 6-3 Big 12): Wide receiver Darryl Stonum joins the team after sitting out last season following his transfer from Michigan, where he caught 49 passes in 2010. In the running game, Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk and Jarred Salubi form an impressive tandem that will try to replace running back Terrance Ganaway’s 1,547 rushing yards from a season ago. More will be asked of the defense this season as eight starters return on that side of the ball, although newcomer defensive end Javonte Magee may end up packing the biggest punch for this unit.
1. SMU leads the all-time series 36-35-7, but Baylor has won nine consecutive contests dating back to their last meeting in 2005.
2. Baylor enters this game on a six-game winning streak, the third-longest active run in the nation.
3. The Mustangs have not opened a season with a win on the road since 1986.