2014 Baylor Bears Team Preview
Head Coach: Art Briles
2013 Record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 Big 12
2013 Bowl Result: Lost to Central Florida 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl
2014 Returning Starters: 6 offense, 4 defense
Odds to win 2015 College Football Championship Game: 28/1
Odds to win 2013 Big 12 Championship: 11/4
Regular Season Wins: over 9.5 -130 / under 9.5 even
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Last season, the Baylor Bears won their first outright Big 12 title ( and first conference title since 1981) on the strength of an explosive offense that scored 69 points or more in 5 of the first 6 games for the Bears. Baylor was still alive for an undefeated season and a berth in the BCS Championship in mid November. However, a disastrous trip to Stillwater which resulted in a 49-17 loss to Oklahoma State ended those dreams. The Bears were gifted the conference title when Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State. The season ended on a disappointing note when Baylor was beaten by Central Florida 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Baylor should contend for the conference title again in 2014. Let’s take a look at Baylor’s offense, defense, special teams and schedule.
Baylor led the nation in total offense last season at 619 yards per game and in points scored at 52.4 per game. The offense should be nearly as explosive in 2014 with most of the key pieces returning.
Quarterback Bryce Petty enters 2014 as a dark horse Heisman contender after a fantastic 2013 campaign. He completed 62% of his passes for 4,200 yards with 32 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also had 14 rushing touchdowns to lead the Bears in that category.
At receiver, the Bears must replace Tevin Reese who left as the #3 receiver in school history. Still Baylor is loaded at the position with Antwan Goodley who was first team All-Big 12 last season in his first as a starter. Goodley had 71 catches, and 13 touchdowns. Levi Norwood also returns after making 47 catches for 733 yards and 8 touchdowns. Corey Coleman, Clay Fuller and Jay Lee will also get a lot of targets.
Baylor must replace leading rusher Lache Seastrunk who left early for the NFL. Seastrunk had 158 carries for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. Baylor also loses Glasco Martin who had 509 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. Still Baylor returns talented tailbacks in Shock Linwood (128 carries, 881 yards, and 8 touchdowns) and Devin Chafin (51, 295 and 4). Johnny Jefferson will also get a lot carries without Seastrunk and Martin.
The only real question on offense is the line which must be revamped with 3 new starters. Starting left tackle Spencer Drango missed spring practice after undergoing off-season back surgery. Right tackle Troy baker looks to return to full strength after an ACL tear prior to the 2013 season. Either way, the line must replace talented guard Cyril Richardson. If the line struggles it could slow down the high octane offense.
The Baylor defense showed immense improvement from prior seasons last year. Baylor was #17 nationally in yards allowed at 344 per game and allowed 23.5 points per game. The defense did struggle in the losses to Oklahoma State and Central Florida giving up at least 49 points in each of those contests. However, only 4 starters return from that unit.
The defensive line will be a strength of the unit though. Ends Shawn Oakman and Jamal Palmer anchor the line. The duo created havoc last season with a combined 23.5 tackles for loss. Boise State transfer Sam Ukwuachu and Javonte Magee will also see plenty of snaps. The Bears also return all five tackles from last season.
There are questions at linebacker and in the secondary though. Middle linebacker Bryce Hager missed spring practice with a groin injury but is expected to be ready for the season. Alavion Edwards, a running back in high school is a potential star.
The secondary must replace All-American safety Ahmad Dixon. the other safety Terrell Burt also missed spring practice with an injury. Corners Xavien Howard and Terrence Singleton are very talented.
The Bears must replace kicker Aaron Jones who made all 82 extra points but only 14 of 23 field goals. The kicking job will now belong to Chris Callahan. Baylor must replace the snapper and holder as well, so kicks could be an adventure. All-Big 12 punter Spencer Roth returns after averaging 45.8 yards per punt last year.
Norwood averaged 9.6 yards per punt return last year with 2 touchdowns. Norwood, Coleman and Fuller will likely split the kick return duties as they did last year. Coleman had a kick return for a touchdown.
With a soft non-conference schedule, Baylor should be 4-0 by the time a trip north to Austin to take on Texas happens October 4. If the Bears can survive that game, they should be undefeated for their showdown in Norman against Oklahoma November 8. Baylor closes with home games against Oklahoma State and Kansas State sandwiched around a neutral site game in Arlington against Texas Tech. I don’t see anymore than 2 losses for this team, and another major bowl bid is likely.
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