Back-to-back eleven win seasons is uncharted territory for the Baylor Bears and back-to-back-to-back double digit win seasons might as well be Narnia. The Bears were one of the Big XII teams left out of the College Football Playoff in 2014 despite their 11-1 regular season record and share of the Big XII title. This season Baylor is looking to get back to that point but without the loss and try their luck at getting into the playoff in its second season and the Bears are locked and loaded at just about every position on the field.
On offense the Bears return everybody except quarterback Bryce Petty who went on to be a 4th round selection for the New York Jets, but junior quarterback Seth Russell won’t let the Baylor offense miss a beat. It’ll be fairly easy given that all five offensive lineman, a 1,200 yard rusher and the best receiver group in the nation all return in 2015. Four seniors and junior center Kyle Fuller return for the Bears and look to help rack up 581 yards per game on offense, which was down from 619 in 2014. Shock Linwood returns at tailback for the Bears and even though he isn’t a household name like a lot of the running backs around the country, he is just as explosive and, when compared with some, a lot more productive. Linwood is a perfect fit for Art Briles wide open, high octane offense. The Bears enjoy an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver after returning two 1,000 yards receivers in Corey Coleman (1,119 yards, 11 touchdowns) and KD Cannon (1,030 yards, 8 touchdowns). Grant it, the offense the Bears run is conducive to productive wide outs but these two guys could be productive anywhere in any offense but together they are a dynamic duo. Throw in senior Jay Lee as the big receiver at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds as the number three receiver and Russell will have plenty of options. Russell does have some big shoes to fill because Bryce Petty had an unbelievable year in 2014 but I truly believe that Seth Russell has the ability to keep this offense rolling and possibly make it a little better. Oh, don’t forget about Mr. LaQuan McGowan who will be lining up at tight end for the Bears this season at a whopping 6-foot-7 & 410 pounds. God help the safeties and linebackers who have to cover and tackle that guy.
The star of the Baylor defense is defensive end Shawn Oakman whose physically imposing presence sparked internet memes all of the web after last year’s Cotton Bowl. Oakman and company are looking to take the next step as a defense after allowing 382 yards per game in 2014. That company includes eight other starters from last year so there is loads of experience all over the field for the Bears. Oakman will be on the defensive line along with two 300-pounders Beau Blackshear and Andrew Billings who look to clog the middle while Jamal Palmer will control the other defensive end spot. All four players were starters last year and combined for twenty sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. Sophomore linebacker and returning leader in tackles Taylor Young (92 tackles) is the only returner on the second level but he’ll be joined by senior Grant Campbell and sophomore Travon Blanchard who each got enough playing time last season for there not to be any worry. On the back end the Bears return all four starters led by junior safety Orion Stewart who had 4 interceptions and 81 tackles last season. This defense is going to be better in 2015 and they don’t have to be better by much with the offensive pyrotechnics provided by Russell and company.
For what seems like the 1,000th season in a row, the Baylor Bears haven’t scheduled very aggressively outside of the conference and for their sake, I hope it doesn’t come back to haunt them later in the season. The Bears open the season on the opening Friday night on the road at an upstart SMU in Dallas. The following week Baylor heads back to the still brand new home stadium to face off against FCS opponent Lamar who finished the 2014 season 8-4. The Bears have their bye week the next week before welcoming the Rice Owls to town on September 26th. The Bears finally face a Power Five Conference team on October 3rd when they head to Arlington, Texas, to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders who gave Baylor everything they wanted and some in last season’s 48-46 shootout. The Bears then head to Lawrence, Kansas, to take on the Jayhawks before a two game home stand against West Virginia and Iowa State. Baylor’s lone regular season loss in 2014 came in Morgantown against the Mountaineers and it wasn’t even close as West Virginia ran away with the 41-27 win. The Bears will have the week of Halloween off before their ridiculous November schedule. The month begins on the road on a Thursday night in ‘The Little Apple’ against Kansas State before the big home match up against the Oklahoma Sooners who Baylor pummeled by 34 points in 2014 and 29 points in 2013. November wraps up with back-to-back road games against Oklahoma State and a Friday night contest against fellow Big XII front runner TCU. These two teams combined for 119 points and 1,267 yards of offense in last year’s wild game in which Baylor overcame a 21 point deficit with just over 10 minutes to play for the win. The Bears finish the season back at home where they will welcome the Texas Longhorns who are looking to bounce back from a 6-7 season.
The Baylor Bears have been on the bad side of some pretty bad headlines in recent weeks but winning in the supreme elixir and a good bit of those headlines will fade away once this team takes the field and starts hanging 60 and 70 points on team in the early part of the season. This offense is ready to explode and the defense is in position to turn the corner and be one of the best in the Big XII which is something Baylor has never had. Then again before last season they had never won the Big XII or a share of the Big XII two seasons in a row.
2015 Baylor Bears Schedule
Sept 4th at SMU (Fri)
Sept 12th Lamar
Sept 19th BYE WEEK
Sept 26th Rice
Oct 3rd v. Texas Tech (Arlington)
Oct 10th at Kansas
Oct 17th West Virginia
Oct 24th Iowa State
Oct 31st BYE WEEK
Nov 7th at Kansas State (Thurs)
Nov 14th (19) Oklahoma
Nov 21st at Oklahoma State
Nov 27th at (2) TCU (Fri)
Dec 5th Texas