The Baylor Bears are about to begin life without starting quarterback Seth Russell, who sustained a neck injury in Saturday's game. Ray Carlin USA TODAY Sports
If the No. 2 Baylor Bears are to remain on track for a berth in the College Football Playoff, they're going to have to do it with a true freshman quarterback.
Baylor junior quarterback Seth Russell, a Heisman candidate and operator of the nation's highest-scoring offense, is expected to miss the remainder of the season after sustaining a cracked bone in his neck in Saturday's game. Backup Jarrett Stidham, a five-star recruit from nearby Stephenville, will now jump into the saddle.
Defending national champion Ohio State proved last season that backup quarterbacks can get the job done, but neither J.T Barrett nor Cardale Jones were true freshmen. Stidham, a 6-foot-3, dual-threat quarterback originally committed to Texas Tech before changing his allegiance less than two months before signing day. Now he's prematurely become the next in Briles' quarterback line at Baylor that includes Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and fourth-round NFL draft pick Bryce Petty.
Russell was continuing to the raise the offensive bar as Baylor leads the nation by a long shot in total yards (686.1 per game) and scoring (61.1 points per game).
Briles has wisely inserted Stidham into the second half of all seven games, and his efficiency has been astounding, completing 24-of-28 passes without an interception for 331 yards and six touchdowns.
"He certainly doesn't perform like a freshman," Briles said during his weekly press conference. "He's instinctively and athletically ready. He's a guy we felt all along that he was in line to be a really productive player for us. If it's his time to play, the team will rally around him."
That's the challenge now as Baylor tries to win a third consecutive Big 12 championship and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.