Take a look at the Big 12 schedule for the 2013 season, and try to find a school that has a more favorable schedule than the Baylor Bears. Actually, save yourself the time, because one does not exist in the conference.
Before doing any schedule analysis, two things must be said. Baylor’s defense has to find a way to slow down opposing offenses after allowing an average of 50.4 points per game in five losses in 2012. The Bears can pull out all the stops on offense, but as we witnessed last season, it will not matter if they cannot stop anyone on defense. Baylor will be young in the middle of the defensive line but will be stocked with upperclassmen at linebacker and secondary. If experience plays a role, Baylor’s defense might be able to trim down those opposing points enough to pick up a explosive win or two that eluded them in 2012.
Second, skeptics may be in the right for having doubts about an offense led by a first-year starter. Bryce Petty threw ten passes last season, but he completed seven of them for 97 yards and a touchdown. If Baylor can plug in a new quarterback and get away with it early, then things should be rolling well heading in to start of Big 12 conference play. Which brings us back to that favorable schedule for the Bears.
Baylor will play West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas in Waco this season. The Sooners could once again be the team to beat in the Big 12 in 2013, and the Sooners surely remember their last visit to Waco. West Virginia could be looking to reestablish an offensive identity when they hit the road for the third time of the season. Texas still appears to be a work in progress, and by the end of the season,the Longhorns could be a near afterthought in the Big 12 race.
The big road contests will not be easy, but they are certainly not marked down in Sharpie for a loss. The first road test of the season will be played at Kansas State, who torched Baylor last November. But the Wildcats no longer have Collin Klein leading the offense, and the Wildcats could take a dip off the top for the Big 12 this season. Kansas State at home will be a stiff challenge, but if the Bears can crack Bill Snyder’s defense, they could leave with a win.
In November, the Bears play back-to-back road games at Oklahoma State and TCU. Both games could be set to play a key role in the Big 12 race down the stretch for one, two or all three teams. The good news for Baylor is if they manage to come up with big home wins against West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas, there could be some room to work with to afford a road loss.
Are you buying in to the idea of Baylor’s schedule leading to a potential surprise run in the Big 12? Baylor has not won a conference championship since winning the 1980 Southwest Conference crown. A Big 12 title may not quite be within reach this season, but the Bears could make a push for a nice bowl destination at the end of the season at the very least.
Follow Kevin McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.