Baylor was expected to struggle in Matt Rhule’s first season and that’s exactly how it went with one of the youngest teams in the country. The Bears managed to beat (and blowout) only Kansas last year, but they came a long way from the opening loss to Liberty, battling in a few Big 12 Games. Now with a tad more experience, Baylor has its eyes on a bowl once again with an over/under of six wins (at 5Dimes Sportsbook), although is still only projected to be ahead of Kansas in the standings.
Charlie Brewer (68.1% completion, 11 TDs, 4 INTs) should return under center after ending his 2017 short with a shoulder injury, which also kept him out of spring practices. He’ll get competition from NC State transfer Jalan McClendon, but Brewer is expected to be the guy for Baylor. In addition to Four starters on the line, the Bears got a transfer from Clemson at tackle and then Tennessee transfer Jalen Hurd is moving to wide receiver. Throw in everyone from last season and this offense has to improve on its 24.3 points per Game. John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty will again see the majority of carries, while Denzel Mims (61 receptions, 1,087 yards, 8 TDs) is set for a huge season with fellow receivers Pooh Stricklin and Chris Platt. Given the players returning as well as the transfers, it’d be hard to see this group not improving.
The same can be said for the defense that was equally bad, giving up 35.9 points per Game, getting gashed on the air and ground. Similar to the offense, the defense is filled with experience because of how young the team was last year. Up front, the Bears added James Lockhart from Texas A&M to go with Ira Lewis and James Lynch in the middle. Their leading tackler is gone, but that shouldn’t change much with Clay Johnston stepping into a bigger role at middle linebacker. The secondary has to do a lot better and should with corner Harrison Hand expected to take a jump in his second year to go with senior safety Verkedric Vaughns (if he starts).
Not many are projecting much from Baylor, but with the Big 12 a toss up this season, there’s no doubt this team will compete with almost everyone in the conference. If it can win all three of its non-Conference Games, with Duke being the toughest, a bowl Game is realistic. Home Games against the Kansas schools and against Texas Tech at a neutral site are all winnable. Those are six spots for a win with the chances of a road upset against a team like Texas or Iowa State. If the Bears don’t reach five wins, it’ll be a disappointment, especially with all of the experience returning. As long as Brewer (or McClendon) can get the offense going, Baylor should have enough to contend for a bowl Game in Rhule’s second year.
2018 Baylor Bears Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Abilene Christian
Sept. 8 at UTSA
Sept. 15 vs. Duke
Sept. 22 vs. Kansas
Sept. 29 at Oklahoma
Oct. 6 vs. Kansas State
Oct. 13 at Texas
Oct. 25 at West Virginia
Nov. 3 vs. Oklahoma State
Nov. 10 at Iowa State
Nov. 17 vs. TCU
Nov. 24 vs. Texas Tech (AT&T Stadium, Arlington)