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Baylor Bears

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A new system is underway for Baylor and things are about to look a lot different than the successful squads we’ve seen in the past. With Matt Rhule comes a pro-style offense and more focus on the defense, which is almost the opposite of what the recent teams have done. While that led to success, Baylor kind of gave up at the end of last year, losing its final six regular season games ahead of the bowl win over Boise State.

Quarterback will be a fight up until the season begins with Zach Smith having a slight lead over Arizona transfer Anu Solomon in the spring. Smith has some experience with this team from last year, but again, this offense will be a little different. Baylor will have a number of running backs to turn to with Terence Williams (1,048 yards, 11 TDs) and JaMycal Hasty (623 yards) still around. Those guys expect to see a heavy dosage as Baylor will try and become more of a possession-first team. To go along with that, the Bears lost some of their top receivers with Chris Platt (567 yards, 4 TDs) expected to be the top guy in the new offense. But for everything to work, the line has to stay healthy because the depth is lacking, even with three starters returning.

Coming in with Rhule is defensive coordinator Phil Snow and he gets six starters back from an iffy group. The line got to the QB consistently last season with the help of end K.J. Smith, but there are questions elsewhere. The Bears must improve on their 210 rushing yards allowed per game, or else it could be another tough season. The secondary has some questions with safety Travon Blanchard suspended indefinitely (as of the spring) and without him, that could mean trouble in the Big 12. Linebacker will have to improve with their top tackler gone as senior Taylor Young steps up in that group.

The Bears should be better than they were a season ago, but that doesn’t mean they’re headed for double-digit wins. An early trip to Duke won’t be easy, while their Big 12 schedule starts rough with Oklahoma in the opener followed by back-to-back trips to K State and OK State. While that could result in three losses, the rest of the schedule opens up and the Bears could close the season on a nice run and possibly headed for a nine-win season, eight at a minimum.

Of course, that’s if everything works out on the offensive end at quarterback and everyone takes to the new system well. There’s also the question of how much the defense will actually improve, or if it will take a couple years for Rhule to fully own this team. Rhule has had big first seasons in the past, but doing so in this conference won’t be as easy. The Bears opened with long +2500 odds to win the Big 12 (at 5Dimes Sportsbook), pitting them in seventh place, behind the top core and above the bottom dwellers.


2017 Baylor Bears Football Schedule

Sept. 2 vs. Liberty
Sept. 9 vs. Texas-San Antonio
Sept. 16 at Duke
Sept. 23 vs. Oklahoma

Sept. 30 at Kansas State
Oct. 14 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 21 vs. West Virginia

Oct. 28 vs. Texas
Nov. 4 at Kansas
Nov. 11 vs. Texas Tech (AT&T Stadium)
Nov. 18 vs. Iowa State
Nov. 24 at TCU

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