Baylor likely will feel what it's like playing in a fish bowl this season, as the nation's eyes watch what happens on the field in Waco -- for a change. Offseason scandals, firings, transfers and lawsuits have hit the Bears program hard. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25: No. 19 Baylor

Posted July 12th, 2016

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Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.

Today’s team: No. 19 Baylor

The Bears will contend if … the players can recover from a sexual assault scandal that rocked the campus and forced the ouster of coach Art Briles. The Bears should still have a dynamic offense if they can rebuild their line. The defense, which lost its entire starting line to graduation or the NFL, will be problematic. Cannon, the standout receiver, had arthroscopic surgery this week that the school is calling “minor.”

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INSIDE THE BEARS

Coach: Jim Grobe (first year at Baylor; 110-115-1 overall in 20 years)

2015: 10-3, 6-3 in the Big 12; beat North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl, 49-38

Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense

The key game: Sept. 24 vs. Oklahoma State

Hello: Head coach Jim Grobe, RB Johnny Jefferson, WR KD Cannon

Goodbye: Head coach Art Briles (fired), WR Corey Coleman (Cleveland Browns), OT Spencer Drango (Browns), DT Andrew Billings (Cincinnati Bengals), DE Shawn Oakman, QB Jarrett Stidham (transferring), DB Xavien Howard (Miami Dolphins)

Spring cleaning: Where to start? The massive changes have come since May, when Briles was removed as head coach after an independent review found that the football team believed itself above the law when it dealt with allegations of sexual assault. Grobe, who has been out of football since 2013, was hired as “acting” head coach. He announced that he’s keeping all of Briles’ assistants and also would maintain Baylor’s up-tempo offense. The school released five freshmen from their national letters of intent, and a sixth, who already was on campus, transferred to Houston. Recruiting, at least for now, has been gutted — every 2017 commitment but one has backed out. And July started with more bad news. Stidham, who ended the spring as the co-No. 1 at quarterback, announced his transfer, too.

Baylor quarterback Seth Russell (17) scores a touchdown against West Virginia last season. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Baylor quarterback Seth Russell (17) scores a touchdown against West Virginia last season. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Seth Russell, 119-200-2,104 yards, 29/6 (1st)

Rushing: Shock Linwood, 196-1,329-10 (1st); Johnny Jefferson, 136-1,000-8 (2nd)

Receiving: KD Cannon, 50-868-6 (2nd)

Tackles: DB Travon Blanchard, 83 (2nd); S Taylor Young, 80 (3rd)

Sacks: S Taylor Young, 3 (4th)

RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (10)

Offense: RB Shock Linwood (2nd team), WR KD Cannon (2nd), OL Kyle Fuller (2nd), QB Seth Russell (honorable mention)

Defense: DB Trayvon Blanchard (honorable mention), P Drew Galitz (honorable mention), S Orion Stewart (honorable mention), S Chance Waz (honorable mention), LB Taylor Young (honorable mention)

FYI …

  • After spring practice, Baylor had co-starters at quarterback with Russell and Stidham. Russell, who will be a senior, was slowed by his recovery from October neck surgery. If healthy, he could be the best in the Big 12. He was last season before his injury.
  • The defense is thin, what with the Bears losing their entire starting line from 2015. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett even was testing the 3-4 scheme as Baylor’s base. Blanchard, who plays a hybrid linebacker/safety position, will be key in making the defense go. It could be that Baylor’s best defense is an offense that outscores everyone.
  • Baylor possibly has the best backfield in the Big 12, this side of Oklahoma. Linwood missed the spring because of foot surgery, which allowed Jefferson a ton of reps. Jefferson rushed for 299 yards in the bowl game victory. And in his final four games of the season, he ran for 601 yards when Baylor turned to its running game to help out the ailing quarterbacks.

Baylor's 2016 schedule

DateOpponentLast yr's result (if played)
Sept. 2Northwestern St.
Sept. 10SMUW, 56-21
Sept. 16at RiceW, 70-17
Sept. 24Oklahoma State*W, 45-35
Oct. 1at Iowa State*W, 45-27
Oct. 15Kansas*W, 66-7
Oct. 29at Texas*L, 23-17
Nov. 5TCU*L, 28-21
Nov. 12at Oklahoma*L, 44-34
Nov. 19Kansas State*W, 31-24
Nov. 25Texas Tech*W, 63-35
Dec. 3at West Virginia*W, 62-38
* Big 12 game

Baylor: The last 5 years

YearW-L/Conf.RankBowl
201510-3 / 6-34th / 13thRussell Athletic Bowl, W
201411-2 / 8-110th / 7thCotton Bowl, L
201311-2 / 8-1— / 13thFiesta Bowl, L
20128-5 / 4-5— / —Holiday Bowl, W
201110-3 / 6-3— / 13thAlamo Bowl, W
Total50-15, 32-135 bowl games (3-2)
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking.

 

2015 NATIONAL RANKS

Scoring: 1st (48.1 ppg)

Scoring defense: 79th (28.3 ppg)

Passing yards: 24th (289.5 ypg)

Rushing yards: 2nd (326.7 ypg)

TOP 25 SO FAR …

No. 25: Washington State

No. 24: Boise State

No. 23: Louisville

No. 22: Oklahoma State

No. 21: Oregon

No. 20: North Carolina

No. 19: Coming Wednesday. Want a hint? It’s the second Big 12 school to make an appearance on our Top 25.

BY CONFERENCE

2 schools: ACC (20-North Carolina, 23-Louisville); Big 12 (19-Baylor, 22-Oklahoma State); Pac-12 (21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)

1 school: Mountain West (24-Boise State)

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