Southern Football Report Preseason Top 25 – Team #7

#7 – Baylor Bears
Waco, Texas
McLane Stadium (50,000)
2013 Record: 11-2 (8-1)

If I were to tell you ten years ago that the Baylor Bears would be a national power, in contention for Big 12 titles and BCS bowl games and have talent that rivals Texas and Oklahoma, you would probably break a rib laughing. That is exactly the case with Baylor these days under head coach Art Briles who has led the Bears to three straight years of conference title contention and their first Big 12 title in 2013, Baylor’s first outright conference championship since 1980. Baylor was one of the best offensive teams in the nation in 2013, averaging an atmospheric 52.4 points per game and the trigger-man of that offense, Bryce Petty, returns for his senior season.

Bryce Petty is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender in 2014.
Bryce Petty is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender in 2014.

Petty passed for 4200 yards and 32 touchdowns and rushed for 14 touchdowns in 2013. The Bears do lose runningback Lache Seastrunk from last season who accounted for almost 1200 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns but Baylor does return the understudy, Shock Linwood. No, his real name is not ‘Shock’ (it’s actually Rashodrick Antoine Linwood) but I’m sure Coach Briles will call him whatever he wants if he rushes for 881 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2014 like he did last season. Linwood had back-to-back 180+ yard performances last season against Oklahoma and Texas Tech and I think he will be one of the breakout stars of college football in 2014. Petty won’t be confined to just handing the ball off as the Bears return four receivers who had 500 or more receiving yards including senior Antwan Goodley (1339 yards, 13 TDs). The big question mark for the Bears offense will be the offensive line unit that returns only 2 starters from 2013. Both returning starters are only juniors which bodes well for the 2015 season but this year, the new starters will need to gel quickly. 

Defensively, the Bears held opponents to 23.5 points per game which is

Bryce Hager will need to step up as the leader of the Bear defense in 2014.
Bryce Hager will need to step up as the leader of the Bear defense in 2014.

incredibly low for the Big 12 conference as the league average is almost 31 points. Baylor loses their two starting defensive ends but will have addition by subtraction production-wise as the two new starters (Junior Shawn Oakman & junior Jamal Palmer) had more tackles for loss in 2013 than the starters did. The interior line returns both starters, Beau Blackshear & Andrew Billings, who are the epitome of immovable objects as they both check in at over 300 yards. The linebackers will be anchored by senior Bryce Hager who leads all returning defenders with 71 tackles and will have two sophomore newcomers to either side of him, Aiavion Edwards and Kiante Griffin. The defense only returns 4 starters from last season and the unit hit the hardest is the secondary with only safety Terrell Burt returning for 2014. Burt recorded 61 tackles and 2 interceptions last season and will be expected to be the leader of a young and very inexperienced group.

Antwan Goodley caught 71 balls for 1339 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Antwan Goodley caught 71 balls for 1339 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013.

Baylor opens the season with two easy games against SMU and FCS Northwestern State before a long road trip to upstate New York to play Buffalo (the Bulls not the Bills). After a bye week the Bears get back to back road games in Ames, Iowa, against the Cyclones followed by a trip to Austin to take on the mighty Longhorns, who Baylor has beaten in three of the last four meetings. November will be where the Bears win or lose the Big 12 title as they open the month in Norman, Oklahoma, against the Sooners who are surely setting a trap after the 41-12 woodshed beating they took last season. Baylor gets a bye week next followed by a home date with a rebuilding Oklahoma State Cowboy team who will be looking to make it two years in a row that they derail the Bear’s national championship aspirations. The Bears’ then head to AT&T Stadium (Jerry World) to play Texas Tech followed by the regular season finale at home against the Kansas State Wildcats.

When you start looking at the numbers from the 2013 Baylor Bear season they look like something out of a video game: 359 passing yards per game, 52.4 points per game, 619 total yards per game and the most insane to me, 685 total yards per home game! With all of the offensive talent returning in 2014, I expect that number to hold steady with maybe a little drop off because of the inexperience on the offensive line. The difference in last season and this season will be the defense with seven players departing after last year. Baylor will be in a few more shootouts in 2014 than they were in 2013 and with a quarterback like Bryce Petty, I like Baylor’s chances. This season the Bears break in some new digs in McLane Stadium, their brand new 50,000 seat diamond of a stadium which replaces the old Floyd Casey Stadium which was opened in 1950 with a 34-7 win over Houston. Baylor won the Big 12 in 2013, are national title contenders, are favorites in many minds to win the Big 12 again, have a potential Heisman candidate in Petty, have one of the best coaches in the country in Art Briles and now have a shiny new stadium to play in.  Yep, I’d say things have definitely changed in Waco. I hope the rest of Texas is ready.

McLane Stadium, the new home of the Baylor Bears.
McLane Stadium, the new home of the Baylor Bears.

Stay logged on to for Team #6 on Friday and tune in to the Southern Football Report every Saturday from 10am-Noon starting on August 23rd! Here is a hint for Team #6: This team’s first game ever wasn’t even in their own state. 

#6 – ????????????
#7 – Baylor Bears
#8 – Oregon Ducks
#9 – Georgia Bulldogs
#10 – Notre Dame Fighting Irish
#11 – USC Trojans
#12 – LSU Tigers
#13 – Michigan State Spartans
#14 – South Carolina Gamecocks
#15 – Ole Miss Rebels
#16 – Wisconsin Badgers
#17 – Stanford Cardinal
#18 – North Carolina Tar Heels
#19 – Florida Gators
#20 – Texas Longhorns
#21 – Iowa Hawkeyes
#22 – Arizona Wildcats
#23 – Boise State Broncos
#24 – Northwestern Wildcats
#25 – Michigan Wolverines

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