Baylor coach Art Briles is confident heading into 2012. Should he be?
Baylor football, with Robert Griffin III at the helm, took college football by storm in 2011. Griffin won the Heisman Trophy, and the Bears beat TCU, Oklahoma and Texas on their way to a 10-3 season. They ultimately finished No. 13 in the country.
Only Oklahoma State, who beat the Bears and won their first Big 12 Championship, finished higher.
That was 2011, though. Hopes are high in Waco, but here are six reasons the Bears need to face reality.
You cannot overstate losing a guy who threw for almost 4,300 yards and 37 touchdowns (72 percent completion rating) while rushing for another 700 with 10 more scores on the ground. That's 47 total touchdowns. Baylor had 80 altogether, including 37 rushing.
Griffin's presence on the field gave opposing defensive coordinators fits, and it showed throughout the entire season.
Not many people can frustrate Bob Stoops and Mack Brown.
Senior Nick Florence will take over the Baylor offense. Florence isn't RG3, though. He isn't a runner and doesn't have a great arm.
Without their do-everything quarterback, the Bears will fall way back in 2012.
The loss of Terrance Ganaway, left, and Robert Griffin III will be too much for Baylor in 2012.
Speaking of rushing touchdowns, the Bears lose Terrance Ganaway as well. You may not have heard of him because of the attention given to Robert Griffin III, but he was a stable and solid back for the Bears.
Ganaway had over 1,500 yards and 21 scores. That's 68 touchdowns altogether between the two departures. An offense doesn't replace 85 percent of their touchdowns just like that.
Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk will attempt to be the back everyone expected him to be before moving on from the Ducks amid the Willie Lyles controversy. Opposing defenses won't have to worry about a dynamic dual-threat quarterback and will sell out to stop the run.
Defenses will stuff the box to stop Baylor on fourth down in 2012.
The Bears went for it on fourth down an astounding 27 times last season and made it 19 times for a conversion rate of 70 percent. That was good enough to be No. 11 nationally.
Only Kansas State was better in the conference (8-of-11, 72 percent; No. 10).
The difference between the Wildcats and the Bears, besides the obvious number of attempts: KSU returns their star power on offense.
Baylor might not go for it as much in 2012, but their percentage will also be lower. As with the rushing attack, not having a viable rushing threat at the quarterback position will allow opposing defenses to throw more blitzes on third and fourth downs.
Baylor won't be nearly as good with turnovers in 2012.
The Bears had 29 turnovers gained in 2011, which is a fairly average number. They were only .38 in turnover margin, though, because they also had 24 turnovers.
Their turnovers were well above average. Don't expect Baylor to maintain their percentage this year.
As with fourth-down percentages, turnover margins tend to swing as a pendulum. Few teams outside of Alabama, LSU and other SEC conference teams can maintain their turnover margin year after year. Those teams rely on their defense more than their offense. Baylor does not.
Teams scored at will against Baylor in 2011. It will happen again in 2012.
Speaking of the defense—wow.
The Bears defense, which was absolutely atrocious, was kept out of the limelight last season because their offense was so good.
That won't happen this season.
They were 116th in total defense, 113th in scoring defense, 102nd in rushing defense, 102nd in pass efficiency defense and 93rd in sacks.
The Big 12 is a conference that puts a premium on throwing the ball and outscoring opponents more than stopping them. Baylor was a prime example of that in 2011.
Baylor (Points Against)
- TCU—48 points
- Kansas State—36 points
- Texas A&M—55 points
- Missouri—39 points
- Oklahoma State—59 points
- Kansas—30 points
- Oklahoma—38 points
- Texas Tech—42
- Washington—56 *
The only team Baylor kept below their season average of 28 was Texas, who scored 24 points. Heck, even Iowa State and Rice scored more than their average against an awful Baylor defense.
Please don't point out to me that the Bears shut out Stephen F. Austin (SFA). That game doesn't matter any more than a game I play in my backyard, due to the quality of the opponent.
The good news: Baylor returns all five starters in their defensive secondary.
The bad news: Baylor returns all five starters in their defensive secondary.
Baylor outscored TCU in 2011. They won't in 2012.
Baylor plays many of the same teams they did in 2011. Those teams all return potent offenses.
The start of the season is manageable with SMU, but it isn't a lock. June Jones was known for his offensive prowess at Hawaii, and while it hasn't turned into success for the Mustangs in Dallas, there will be a breakthrough at some point.
The Mustangs defense was 26th in the nation a year ago. Watch this game closely.
Sam Houston State was the FCS runner-up a year ago and is ranked No. 2 in their preseason poll. Baylor should win this game, but watch out for the Bearkats from nearby Huntsville to make it tough on them.
After the Bearkats, Baylor gets a gimme-game at Louisiana-Monroe. This is one of the rare times a BCS team travels to a lesser opponent, but the Bears really don't have much of a following outside of Waco. The Warhawks weren't in the top 50 in any major statistical category in 2011, and this might be the easiest game on Baylor's schedule.
Where it really gets tough is the middle of the season. They travel to West Virginia, host TCU and go to Texas in three consecutive games. If they come out of those three 1-2, I'll be very surprised.
There isn't a guaranteed win at Iowa State, but a homecoming matchup against Kansas is winnable. The Bears had to eek out a win in overtime over the Jayhawks last year.
They travel to Oklahoma before finishing the season with three straight home games versus Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. KSU should beat Baylor, Texas Tech is a tossup and Oklahoma State's high-powered offense—even with a freshman under center—should torch Baylor's secondary.
It isn't a tough schedule, but Baylor also won't be near the team they were last season. If they make it to a bowl game, it will be a HUGE success of a season. My prediction is four or five wins.