SportsRatings 2015 College Football Pre-season Top 128
|Baylor Bears (Big Twelve #2)|
|AP #7 USA #8||Strength:#6 Success:#11 Overall:#6|
|Record: 11-2||Bowl: Lost to Michigan State 42-41 (Cotton)
|Picks: AP #4 | USA #4 | Lindy's #5 | Athlon #3 | Steele #5 | ESPN #3
|Record: 10-2||Bowl odds: 99.9% Playoff odds: 35%|
Baylor knows they have to go undefeated to be assured of a Playoff berth; the big problem is that they play TCU on the road this year.
8 ret. starters
|2014 Scoring Offense: #1 (raw) #2 (adjusted for opposition)|
|2015 Projected Scoring Offense: #3 (adjusted)
The Bears return almost all the pieces of their high-powered offense except for Bryce Petty. With an already-trained replacement the transition should be smooth and the offense almost as good.
|2014 Passing Rank: #4 (raw) #2 (adjusted)||2014 Sacks Allowed (raw): #51|
|2015 Projected Passing Rank: #6 (adjusted)
||2015 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #32|
Some people wonder whether Baylor can replace Bryce Petty (3,885 yards, 29 TDs, 7 int), but it wasn't long ago that people wondered if Baylor could survive post-RGIII. Seth Russell (804 yards, 8 TDs, 1 int) has already proven himself running this offense, and he has two 1,000 yard receivers coming back. Corey Coleman (1,119 yards, 11 touchdowns) is back with KD Cannon (1,030 yards, 8 TDs). #3 Antwan Goodley (830 yards) departs but Jay Lee (633) returns. The offensive line returns almost everyone and protections should be even better than last year. Russell is familiar with the offense and has a great supporting cast; the passing game should remain near the top.
|Rushing||2014 Rushing Rank: #30 (raw) #31 (adjusted)||2015 Projected Rushing Rank: #12 (adj.)
Baylor's top three rushers return, including Shock Linwood (1,252 yards, 16 TDs) and Johnny Jefferson (524 yards). The offensive line returns starters Spencer Drango, Blake Muir, and Kyle Fuller, with half-time starters Jarrell Broxton and Pat Colbert, plus 2013 starter Desmine Hilliard. The ground game should be very good this season, and Seth Russell (185 yards, 5.8 ave) adds more than Bryce Petty (101, 1.2 ave) did.
|2014 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #25 Pass Defense per-game: #73 Per-attempt: #65|
9 ret. starters
|'14 Scoring Defense: #51 (raw) #38 (adjusted)||'14 sacks: #17||'14 picks: #45|
|'15 Projected Scoring Defense: #12 (adjusted)
||'15 sacks: #5||'15 picks: #19|
Baylor's defensive line returns all four starters including Shawn Oakman (11 tacks, 8.5 tackles for loss), KJ Smith (5 sacks), and Andrew Billings (9.5 tackles for loss). They do lose linebacker Bryce Hager (114 tackles, 10 tackles for loss) in the 4-2-5, but four of five starters in the secondary are back. Xavien Howard (13 pass breakups) and Ryan Reid (12 pass breakups) should help the Bears exceed last year's 13 picks. Overall 17 of the top 19 tacklers are back; we expect the defense to improve quite a bit.
- Kicking Game: Kicker Chris Callahan (18 of 26 FG) is back but punter Spencer Roth (43.4 average) is gone.
- Return Game: Levi Norwood departs after averaging 5.8 yards per punt return and 19.7 on kickoffs. Corey Coleman is back, and he had a touchdown return on a kickoff in 2013.
- Turnovers projection: We see the defense getting more picks, but that might be more than offset by increased QB interceptions. Bryce Petty threw just 7 last season; Seth Russell has thrown 4 in 128 attempts, though just 1 last year.
Coaching Hot Seat Ranking: #119 (COLD)
Art Briles has certainly earned his keep at Baylor, building the program from a football afterthought into a powerhouse. The recent controversy over Sam Ukwuachu, who was convicted of rape after transferring from Boise State, might raise questions, but it seems that if anyone was in the wrong it was the Baylor review board that initially cleared Ukwuachu of wrongdoing.
Recruiting 2015 Recruiting Rank: #61 2014 Recruiting Rank: #13
This year's class is surprisingly low-ranked compared to last year's, despite following a very successful season. To be fair the class is quite a bit smaller than last year's. And the program isn't quite Oregon yet; it took the Ducks a while to become a consistent recruiting power.
Baylor did its typical tiptoe through the cupcakes in the early season, scoring 45 or more points until Texas, who finished with the nation's #1 pass defense, held them to 28 (Texas scored 7). The next game was one for the ages, as TCU and Baylor combined fror 119 points and the Bears overcame a 21-point 4th quarter deficit to win 61-58. They lost the very next game to West Virginia, 41-27, however, and that—and their weak non-conference schedule—would ultimately hold them out of the Playoff. For a long time it looked like they'd remain ranked below TCU, but their final wins included three bowl teams including #11 Kansas State, as well as a 48-14 blowout of Oklahoma. They beat Kansas much more easily than TCU did, but had much more trouble with Texas Tech (48-46) when Bryce Petty was knocked out of the game and their big lead almost vanished. The 38-27 K-State win was enough to put them ahead of TCU but not enough to make the top four. They were more angry with their own conference for promoting TCU as a co-champion than they ultimately were with the Committee. Instead of the Playoff they went to the Cotton Bowl and led Michigan State by 20 points in the 4th quarter. The Spartans did to them what they'd done to TCU, and the Bears lost 42-41.
Last year's prediction: We had the Bears #5 and projected a 10-2 record. Sound familiar? We're happy with last year's pick just because everyone else put Baylor #10 or so. In the game-by-game picks we favored the Bears in every game, and they were one of our four favorites to make the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately they were #5.
Baylor 2015 schedule & forecast
Straight up: 11-1 Cume: 10-2 Undefeated: 12%
Yes, this year's prediction is much the same as last year's—nearly the same spot, same 10-2 cumulative projection. The main difference is that this year there is a game in which we do not favor the Bears to win.
Obviously it's not a non-conference game, as Baylor has made an art of scheduling the easiest possible teams outside the Big Twelve. This year is no exception as SMU, Lamar, and Rice will offer no resistance.
Another trend with Baylor's recent schedules has been that the easier teams in the Big Twelve are faced earlier, and this year it's true as well. Their first four opponents include cellar dwellers Iowa State and Kansas, as well as Texas Tech on a neutral field and West Virginia at home. Playing at Kansas State looks only marginally harder this year.
Finally in mid-November they face Oklahoma which should be a high-profile game. And after Oklahoma State on the road they have the big one: Baylor vs. TCU, the rematch, in Fort Worth this time. It's the one game we expect them to lose.
They finish against Texas and then their fate is again in the hands of the College Football Playoff Committee. If they've gone 10-2 as our odds say, they don't have much chance. If they're undefeated, they're in. At 11-1? Then it depends, like it did last year, on how many other 1-loss teams there are and whether those teams won their conference championship games. But after last year Baylor knows there's only one certain way to make it, and that's to beat everybody.
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SportsRatings 2015 College Football Pre-season Top 128