One didn't used to think of Baylor as a football powerhouse, but things have changed in Waco. Could quarterback Bryce Petty give the small school its second Heisman Trophy winner in three years? He is the +1100 fourth-favorite on NCAA football odds.
The 2013 season was the best in Baylor history in large part because of Bryce Petty, who in some ways was even better than Robert Griffin III was when he won the school's first Heisman in 2011. The Bears started the season 9-0, including maybe the biggest win in school history: a home thumping of No. 10 Oklahoma on a Thursday night in Waco. That victory put Baylor in charge of the Big 12 race, and into the national title picture, but the latter evaporated with a 49-17 humbling at No. 10 Oklahoma State on Nov. 23. Don't blame Petty, as he threw for 359 yards, and two scores, but the Bears turned it over three times, and couldn't run the ball much.
Baylor then would close with wins over TCU and Texas, the latter for its first Big 12 title. It did seem like Baylor took Central Florida for granted a bit in the Fiesta Bowl, with the Knights winning 52-42. Baylor caught two huge breaks as well when Petty announced that he would return for his senior season, and head coach and offensive architect, Art Briles wasn't hired by a bigger college program (Texas), or an NFL team (Houston, Washington).
Petty was a first-year starter in 2013, and completed 62 percent of his passes for 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns, and just three interceptions, while rushing for 209 yards, and 14 touchdowns, as Baylor led the nation in scoring, and won a school-record 11 games. Petty's 174.3 season rating was behind only Heisman winner Jameis Winston, as he finished seventh in the trophy voting.
Petty loses three offensive linemen, leading rusher Lache Seastrunk, and second-leading receiver Tevin Reese, but will still have one of the best groups of receivers led by Antwan Goodley (73 catches, 1,339 yard, 13 TDs). Baylor's wins total for 2014 is set at 9.5 (regular season only) on NCAA football odds. The Bears are +3200 to win the national title, +400 to make the College Football Playoff and -110 to win the Big 12.
Looking Ahead To 2014
Baylor had arguably one of the worst non-conference schedules ever for a major-conference team last season, hosting Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe. The Bears won by 66, 57 and 63. Apparently they don't care about strength of non-conference schedule factoring much into the new College Football Playoff as this year Baylor hosts SMU -- the debut of Baylor's new $260 million McLean Stadium -- and Northwestern State (who?) and visits Buffalo. That's a joke.
So, Petty should put up video game numbers in those three. In last year's 70-13 win over Buffalo (which at least had Khalil Mack), Petty needed just 16 pass attempts to throw for 338 yards, and two scores. He also ran for a score as the Bears had a school-record 781 yards. SMU was a terrible defensive team last year, giving up 55 points to Rutgers, for example.
The Big 12 doesn't appear likely to be all that strong in 2014 outside of Oklahoma. Baylor should have little trouble in its conference opener at Iowa State, a team the Bears routed 71-7 last year behind 343 yards and two TDs from Petty. A trip to Texas the next week looms as possibly Baylor's first loss. The Horns were beaten 30-10 in the 2013 regular-season finale in Waco. The next three games Baylor should be favored: vs. TCU, at West Virginia and vs. Kansas. Then comes the one maybe for all the marbles: at Oklahoma on Nov. 8. Petty had five total TDs in his team's 41-12 rout of the Sooners last year.
If the Bears can get out of Norman undefeated -- good luck with that, since they have never won there -- then an unbeaten record looks likely.
The final three games on the schedule: vs. Oklahoma State, vs. Texas Tech (AT&T Stadium) and vs. Kansas State. Remember, no Big 12 title game.
Free NCAA Football picks: A weak schedule hurts Petty's Heisman chances, and Baylor's shot at the four-team playoff: neither happens. Go 'over' 9.5 wins as the Bears should finish 10-2, losing at Texas and OU. Sooners win the Big 12.
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