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Today at No. 9: Baylor Bears Coach: Art Briles (44-32, entering seventh season; 78-60 overall) 2013 record: 11-2 (8-1 in Big 12 Conference, first...

college football winnerToday at No. 9: Baylor Bears

Coach: Art Briles (44-32, entering seventh season; 78-60 overall)

2013 record: 11-2 (8-1 in Big 12 Conference, first in conference)

Pictures: Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders 2015 Swimsuit Calendar

Look back: After spending close to 15 seasons as an also-ran in the Big 12, Baylor now finds itself as one of the most successful programs in the country. Much of that success can be attributed to Art Briles, who has put the Bears program on the map. That includes last season, which saw Baylor win a school-record 11 games and earn a spot in a BCS game.

Offensive starters returning: 5

Offensive starters lost: 6

Defensive starters returning: 4

Defensive starters lost: 7

Key losses: RB Lache Seastrunk, RB Glasco Martin, WR Tevin Reese, C Stefan Huber, LG Cyril Richardson, K Aaron Jones, DE Chris McAllister, LB Eddie Lackey, S Ahmad Dixon, CB Joe Williams, LB Sam Holl

Top returnees: QB Bryce Petty, WR Antwan Goodley, WR Levi Norwood, DT Beau Blackshear, LB Bryce Hager, P Spencer Roth

Strengths: Baylor has consistently featured one of the top three offenses in the country since 2011, including last season when the Bears led the nation with an incredible 618 yards of total offense per game. Quarterback Bryce Petty passed for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns and was ranked second nationally with a 174.3 pass efficiency rating last season, earning Big 12 offensive player of the year honors. He’ll have plenty of talent surrounding him again this season. Antwan Goodley joins a growing list of Baylor receivers to turn after a 1,000-plus yard receiving season. Goodley led the team last season in receiving yards (1,339), receptions (71) and receiving touchdowns (13). He’ll be joined by fellow senior Levi Norwood, who was third on the team with 733 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches.

Baylor’s passing attack is well known, but the Bears pride themselves on having led the league in rushing the past two seasons. Two of the team’s top rushers from last season — Lache Seastrunk (1,177 yards, 11 TDs) and Glasco Martin (509, 7 TDs) — have departed, but Shock Linwood (881 yards, 8 TDs) showed flashes of potential that have Baylor coaches excited for 2014.

Weaknesses: Baylor is coming off its best season defensively since 1995, going from being ranked No. 119 in the country in total defense in 2012 to No. 28 in 2013. The Bears allowed just 23.5 points per game in 2013 and were eighth in the country in turnover margin (+13). However, many of the team’s top defenders are gone, leaving just four starters back from 2013. Junior Beau Blackshear (33 total tackles, 2.5 sacks) is the most experienced player on the defensive line, having appeared in 26 games.

Linebacker Bryce Hager (71 tackles) is the top returning tackler from last season and will anchor the middle of the defense. Junior left tackle Spencer Drango is one of two returning starters on the offensive line for the Bears this season along with right guard Desmine Hilliard.

Outlook: Baylor appears well on its way to becoming a top-25 program, but the key will be consistency. The Bears return a strong leader in Petty and should contend for a Big 12 title.

2014 Schedule

Aug. 31 SMU

Sept. 6 Northwestern State

Sept. 12 at Buffalo

Sept. 27 at Iowa State

Oct. 4 at Texas

Oct. 11 TCU

Oct. 18 at West Virginia

Nov. 1 Kansas

Nov. 8 at Oklahoma

Nov. 22 Oklahoma State

Nov. 29 vs. Texas Tech

Dec. 6 Kansas State

PURCHASE THE 2014-15 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PACKAGE, CLICK THE ICON BELOW

Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com

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