Baylor football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Bears, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About The Baylor Offense
Nothing is going to change – at least in style. Art Briles might not be around, but the O will keep on bombing – that’s the hope.
Even with all the injury issues at quarterback, the machine kept on rolling finishing first in the nation in total offense and scoring averaging 48 points and 616 yards per game. Don’t expect the fun to slow down.
Now the Bears have the quarterback situation settled – at least that the hope – needing Seth Russell to be back in one piece and back to form with Jarrett Stidham transferring. But he doesn’t have Corey Coleman to throw to.
It’s Baylor, so the receiving corps will keep on cranking with KD Cannon leading another loaded group that’ll once again assault the stat sheet. There are more than enough playmakers to spread the ball around.
This is hardly a one-dimensional attack – ask North Carolina after getting steamrolled last bowl season – with one of the deepest backfields in the country. There’s depth, speed and power – the Bears have it all in the backfield working behind a good enough line to keep it all rolling. Four starters might be gone up front, and the veteran leadership has to emerge, but that’s why you schedule Northwestern State, SMU and Rice to start the season.
Biggest Key To The Baylor Offense
Hope for a lot of luck keeping the quarterbacks in one piece. The running game picked up the slack over the late part of the season when the Bears were trying to survive with a third-string quarterback – they ran for close to 1,600 yards over the final four games – but the offense isn’t the Baylor offense without bombing away. Any sort of a passing game would’ve been enough to beat TCU – the Bears threw for 62 yards in the tough conditions – and struggled with 84 yards in the loss to Texas. Everything will be fine with Seth Russell lasting through the season, If it’s freshman Zach Smith, there’s a problem.
What You Need To Know About The Baylor Defense
It was good enough. The Bears didn’t lose to TCU or Texas because of the defense – and it did what it could in the firefight loss to Oklahoma, and that was it for the big problems. This wasn’t the defense of the previous years that got ripped to shreds. But this time around, there’s some work to do up front.
The secondary will be the biggest positive and should grow into a rock as the season goes on. The recruiting has ramped up with some excellent young options ready to step in and play a role, but this is a veteran group that’ll win its share of battles.
Using a 4-2-5 alignment most of the time, the Bears have a versatile linebacking corps with enough depth and returning veterans to show off even more looks and options. They’ll need to be creative with an interesting line that loses Andrew Billings, Shawn Oakman, and most of the key parts. There’s little depth up front with the starting four likely to be changed around over the first few games until the right combination is found.
Biggest Key To The Baylor Defense
The line needs to get the interior settled right away. Baylor gave up a good-enough 163 rushing yards per game, but that’s not happening again unless the line can use the first three warm-ups to get everything solidified before the start of the Big 12 season. The Bears were spoiled by having a massive anchor in Andrew Billings over the last few years who could hold up on the nose, but JUCO transfer Jeremy Faulk looks ready to take over in the interior. He needs to be a rock with so many question marks about the rest of the defensive front, especially with the backup tackle situation such a concern.
Baylor Will Be Far Better If …
The team stops getting penalized. The Bears have been hit with a whopping 365 flags over the last three seasons including 20 games with double-digit penalties, and while that doesn’t matter all that much for an offense that cranks out yards in chunks, it matters when the attack isn’t working so hot. The passing game struggled late in the season after dealing with the quarterback injuries, and that’s when the penalties were a problem.
Best Baylor Offensive Player
QB Seth Russell, Sr. – The Bears need their No. 1 guy to be ready to go. The 6-3, 220-pound Russell started the season on fire throwing for 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns before getting knocked out for the year, but if he can be back to normal, he’s the downfield playmaker – with some mobility, too – to make the Baylor offense the Baylor offense again. There are plenty of talented other offensive stars to help the cause, too.
Best Baylor Defensive Player
S Travon Blanchard, Jr. – The Bears have a strong enough secondary to be a positive as the season goes on, and Blanchard should be the best of the bunch – even though he’ll be used more like a linebacker. A nickel back who does a little of everything, he’s the right fit for the alignment moving around where needed. Second on the team in tackles last year, he also came up with two interceptions with his safety skills and big-hitting style. He’ll be a statistical star again.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Jeremy Faulk, Jr. – The Bears need bulk in the interior to make up for the loss of Andrew Billings, and that means Faulk has to be the star right away coming in from the JUCO ranks. The former Florida Atlantic Owl isn’t massive at 6-2 and 295 pounds, but he’s a strong tough guy on the nose. No one’s as strong as Billings, but for a run defense coming off a decent year, he’ll have to be.
The Baylor Season Will Be A Success If …
It wins the Big 12 title. Even with all the controversy and all the turmoil, on the field the team is good enough to pull off a Big 12 title. With an embarrassing non-conference schedule – Northwestern State, SMU and Rice – go 8-1 in the Big 12 and that could be enough to not only win the conference title, but maybe even go to the College Football Playoff. The offense will be that good, and the defense will be good enough. However, it’s probably not going to happen without a win against …
Nov. 12 at Oklahoma – The two programs have only played 24 times, but as long as the Bears are still living and breathing after the offseason problems, and as long as Oklahoma plays up to its talent, this should be the Big 12 championship game. The Sooners won 44-34 last season, but got destroyed 48-14 in 2014 and 41-12 in 2013. Baylor should be favored in every other game – if all goes according to plan – and should be good enough to battle in any sort of a firefight.
2015 Baylor Fun Stats
– Fourth Down Conversions: Baylor 28-of-40 (70%) – Opponents 9-of-23 (39%)
– First Quarter Scoring: Baylor 214 – Opponents 118
– Rushing Yards Per Game: Baylor 326.7 – Opponents 163.1