Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a continuing series of articles examing the 2013 college football season and previewing the 10 schools in the Big 12 Conference.
(2012 record: 8-5, 4-5 in Big 12)
Four years ago, Baylor was the team that everyone else in the Big 12 looked forward to and past as a guaranteed win on the schedule. That was at the beginning of current head coach Art Briles’ tenure in Waco and before two quarterbacks who in back-to-back years set all kinds of passing marks and high-scoring offensive performances.
Robert Griffin III electrified the country and elevated the long downtrodden Baylor program to a 10-win season and a third-place finish in the Big 12 standings in 2011. He also won the Heisman Trophy that season. Just when some folks thought there was no way the Bears could keep the same momentum going into 2012 after losing a player of RG3′s caliber, along comes Nick Florence, who set a school record for passing yards in 2012 and was second in the country behind Texas A&M’s sensational Johnny Manziel in total offensive production.
Briles feels confident the Baylor offense will be in good hands in 2013, despite another change at quarterback. Unless something changes during August practice sessions, the new starter at quarterback appears to be Bryce Petty, another strong-armed QB who should do very well in Briles fast-tempo offense. During spring scrimmages this year, Petty completed 53 of 72 passes for seven touchdowns.
Asked during Big 12 Media Days last week what a resonable expectation for Petty would be this season, Briles said: “First thing that popped into my mind is break every Baylor record there is offensively. That equates to winning every football game we step on the field, which needs to be his expectation along with ours.”
And Briles knows a thing or two about developing top quarterbacks. Among his pupils have been Kevin Kolb and Case Keenum at Houston, Griffin III and Florence.
The Bears were the second best passing team in the Big 12 last season (behind Texas Tech), averaging almost 232 yards per game, and they’re likely to be even better in that department in 2013. The backfield pair of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin – coach Briles refers to them as “Lightning” and “Thunder” – didn’t really kick it up a gear until midway through the 2012 schedule and still managed almost 2,000 yards combined.
The past two seasons, Baylor has lost a pair of the country’s best wide receivers. Kendall Wright departed with RG3 in 2011, and this season the Bears lose Terrance Williams. Both receivers were high NFL draft picks. The cupboard isn’t bare in 2013, with Baylor’s No. 2 (Tevin Reese) and No. 4 (Levi Norwood) receivers returning.
Baylor returns as many as 12 starters, mostly on defense, where they’re needed the most. The Bears have gotten steadily better on defense under Briles.
“We certainly feel we’re up there with anybody else in America,” Briles said.
The Bears may not win as many as they did in 2011 or 2012, but they’re sure to give all of their opponents this season a run for their money.
Projected 2013 finish: 6th, 5-7 overall, 3-6 in Big 12
Next up: Kansas State Wildcats