College Football Preview: The 2014 Baylor Bears
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2014 College Football Preview
Odds to Win National Championship: 28-1 See the Latest Odds
Overview: The Baylor Bears continue to take steps forward under head coach Art Briles, as they reached a BCS bowl for the first time in program history and won 11 games, which were the most in school history. Baylor had the best scoring offense in the country, averaging 52.4 points and improved its defense to where it ranked fourth in the Big 12. At one point the Bears looked to be a national championship contender as they started the season with nine straight victories. With now four straight bowl appearances and 37 wins in the last four seasons, Baylor has proven it is more than capable of being a powerhouse football team.
Offense: Quarterback Bryce Petty enters this season as a Heisman candidate after throwing for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns in his first real season of playing time. Petty also rushed for 14 touchdowns and was the engine behind Baylor’s offense that took college football by storm. Baylor’s offense is in great hands with Petty running the show, but he’ll also have weapons around him, including wide receiver Antwan Goodley who topped 1,000 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Shock Linwood is also more than capable of replacing running back Lache Seastrunk, as he averaged more than six yards per carry a year ago. If there’s one concern with Baylor’s offense it would be an offensive line that lost a few key parts.
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Defense: Baylor’s defense improved drastically last season, going from dead last in the Big 12 in 2012 to fourth in 2013. Baylor should have no problem matching last year’s numbers with defensive line duo Shawn Oakman and Jamal Palmer returning, a combination that racked up an impressive 23.5 tackles for loss. Baylor does lose a lot of its leadership, including its top two tacklers in Eddie Lackey and Ahmad Dixon, but linebacker Bryce Hager is a solid player in the second level of the defense and should have a monster senior season. Baylor’s secondary is inexperienced, but Terrell Burt began to come in his own last year and will make plays on the football. Baylor’s defense is still a work in progress but there’s enough here to get the job done.
Special Teams: Punter Spencer Roth returns after averaging close to 46 yards per kick. At field goal kicker, Baylor must find a replacement for Aaron Jones.
Outlook: It won’t be easy to repeat as Big 12 champs in a conference that continues to improve year by year. However, Baylor has a shot with a potential Heisman winning quarterback and an offense that can score at the drop of a hat. Baylor’s defense is going to have to mature before our very eyes and come up with the timely stops needed to secure games. There are question marks with this team and this version of Baylor may not be as talented as last years. But there’s still more than enough for Baylor to go bowling for the fifth straight season.