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SMU (0-0) at (10) Baylor (0-0)



Sunday, August 31, 7:30 p.m. (ET)

The Sports Network

GAME NOTES: The defending Big 12 Conference champions kick off the 2014 season on Sunday night, as the 10th-ranked Baylor Bears play host to the SMU Mustangs.

This is the first game at Baylor's brand new McLane Stadium, marking a return to on-campus games ay Baylor for the first time since 1935.

Baylor won a school-record 11 games in 2013, claimed its first Big 12 title and earning its first trip to a BCS bowl game (52-42 loss to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl). The Bears have won 10 straight home games, and are an impressive 19-1 in Waco since 2011.

Overall, BU has won 15 of its last 17 games entering the season, and is seeking its fifth straight home-opening win under head coach Art Briles. The Bears will face FCS foe Northwestern State next before taking a trip to Buffalo. They open Big 12 action at Iowa State on Sept. 27.

As for SMU, it is coming off a season in which it went 5-7, which included an even 4-4 mark against American Athletic Conference foes. Their sub-.500 mark meant an end to the Mustangs' four-year run of participating in a bowl game (the longest streak in school history), but coach June Jones has some key components back in the hopes of rebounding.

The Ponies open the season against four teams from the state of Texas (North Texas, Texas A&M and TCU being the others) before lifting the lid on AAC play at East Carolina on Oct. 4.

The all-time series between these two Lone Star State rivals in knotted at 36-36-7, which includes an even 18-18-3 mark in Waco. Still, the Bears have won the last 10 meetings.

Quarterback Garrett Gilbert was sensational for SMU last season, accounting for the second-most yards in the country (379.5 ypg). With Gilbert now gone, it's up to Neal Burcham to carry the mantle, but to do so he'll have to play much better than he did last season when he threw four interceptions in as many appearances.

"The most important thing is to get the quarterback to play at a high level," Jones said recently. "One of those guys that doesn't have the experience in what we're doing has to grow up real fast."

The offense lost more than just Gilbert, as 1,000-yard receivers Jeremy Johnson and Keenan Holman have moved on as well. Darius Joseph and Der'rikk Thompson will now step in as the primary targets, the duo having combined for more than 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Joseph had more than 100 receptions himself.

Kevin Pope had 91 tackles, the second-most on the team last year. Now he is slated as the starting running back. Prescott Line (332 yards, three TDs) is the top returning rusher, and he will see plenty of action as well.

Despite churning out 440 yards on offense each week, the Mustangs failed to knock off the majority of their opponents due to the fact that they surrendered 412.6 ypg and had one of the worst opponent third-down conversion rates (.412) in the AAC.

Safety Hayden Greenbauer is the only returning starter in the secondary, and he only had 40 tackles last season.

In an effort to alleviate some of the pressure in the back, the defensive line will need to step up in a big way, as will the linebacking corps. That said, big things are expected from linemen Beau Barnes (13.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks), Zach Wood (49 tackles, 6.0 TFL) and Darrian Wright (2.0 sacks), as well as linebacker Stephon Sanders (86 tackles).

The Baylor offense was incredibly productive last year, and more of the same is expected this fall as Heisman hopeful Bryce Petty lights up the sky over Waco, and whatever field he happens to be playing on. Petty, now a senior, put up huge numbers a year ago when he threw for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns and only three interceptions, and he will certainly have talent to find on the outside, notably senior wide receiver Antwan Goodley (71 receptions, 1,339 yards, 13 touchdowns).

Shock Linwood is back as the team's top ground gainer, having rushed for 881 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013 as a freshman.

Briles knows that focus and preparation are the building blocks on which he hopes to construct another highly successful campaign.

"Our goal right now is we're preparing to play 60 minutes to win a football game August 31st (vs. SMU). That's our goal, that's our objective, that's the way we're approaching it."

Matching its offensive counterpart nearly blow for blow, the BU defense was superb last season, but the return of only four players with starting experience could mean a downswing this year. The loss of several key contributors won't be easy to overcome, but if standout linebacker Bryce Hager (71 tackles) returns to form after missing the final few games of last season due to injury that would be a huge help.

Up front is where the Bears appear to be strongest, as defensive ends Shawn Oakman and Jamal Palmer have the skill to get the job done.

The secondary may take some time to jell, with the only notable returnee being junior safety Terrell Burt (two interceptions). There is however, an air of excitement around the potential of sophomores Terrence Singleton and Orion Stewart.

While the Mustangs aren't going to hand this one to the Bears, there is little chance of them raining on Baylor's parade as it opens its new digs.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Baylor 44, SMU 20

08/29 15:16:05 ET

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Final
NCCU 108
BASC 52
 
Final
CHA 106
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Final
NCSU 83
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7:00pm Tonight
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8:00pm Tonight
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Final
CLE 98
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Final
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PHO 111
Final
DET 106
DAL 117
Final
BOS 109
ORL 92
Final
MIA 87
UTA 105
Final
TOR 105
BRK 89
Final
SAN 116
MEM 117
Final
POR 104
MIL 97
Final
DEN 111
HOU 115
Final
LAC 102
IND 100
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
NYK
 
8:30pm Tonight
HOU
NOP
 
10:00pm Tonight
SAC
MIL
 
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
OKC
 
Final
UNT 78
LANG 65
 
Final
Terriers 64
DELST 72
 
Final
MSST 55
ARKST 69
Final
NCCU 108
BASC 52
 
Final
GMAS 99
CATAWBA 69
 
Final
WOFF 64
CSOU 58
 
Final
HIGH 106
FERR 48
 
Final
JVU 68
GWEBB 65
 
Final
ILL 73
HAMP 55
 
Final
BST 52
JMU 72
 
Final
YOUNG 84
KNST 90
 
Final
UMO 71
LONG 60
 
Final
PITT 65
MAN 56
Final
OSU 97
NCAT 55
Final
FSU 93
UNF 77
 
Final
TOL 83
RMU 57
 
Final
CAMP 70
SIUE 65
 
Final
DUQ 52
RFLSH 67
 
Final
NCSU 83
TENN 72
Final
UCF 75
DET 70
Final
UNCW 73
LIB 70
 
Final
LOYC 83
ABCHRIST 44
 
Final
MURST 94
ALCOR 56
 
Final
HOU 56
ARKPB 61
 
Final
NW 67
CMICH 80
Final
WKENT 75
CHIST 60
 
Final
ODU 58
UGST 54
Final
SMU 67
ILLCH 46
Final
LALAF 115
MLGN 76
 
Final
TULSA 74
MIZST 70
Final
UWGB 66
MORE 50
 
Final
NEOM 92
NCOL 82
 
Final
TTU 101
SCST 39
 
Final
DEN 83
TAMCC 73
 
Final
STEPH 66
TXST 60
 
Final
STLU 75
TXPA 69
 
Final
MEM 83
USCU 73
 
Final
ILLST 64
TENNM 54
 
Final
MSU 66
EMICH 46
Final
GRCN 80
INCWORD 82
 
Final
STAN 67
LMU 58
Final
BAY 66
NMST 55
 
Final
CIN 71
SDST 62
Final
AUB 80
WINT 62
 
Final
NMU 76
CARK 55
 
Final
PEPP 53
HOW 45
 
Final
CPSL 60
NE 58
 
Final
UNLV 75
PORT 73
Final
OREG 79
CSNO 56
Final
WASH 86
GRAM 38
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NJD 0
OTT 2
Final
MIN 2
BOS 3
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VAN 0
DAL 2
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