College Football Handicapping: Baylor Bears
by Trevor Whenham - 11/11/2013
The Baylor Bears have been one of the best stories of this college football season. They haven’t lost, and they have scored points in bulk all year. They have scored 69 or more points in five of their eight outings, and the worst outing they have had all year still netted 35. They are as fun to watch as any team this year. They also have a chance to play for all the marbles. They need to win out, and they need some help — likely losses by two of Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State — but they have a better chance than most teams. So, can they keep winning? And how should bettors deal with them? Let’s take a look:
Petty was only okay — by his lofty standards — and they still cruised
QB Bryce Petty has been like a living video game this year. Twenty-one touchdowns, just one interception, a gaudy 13.15 yards per attempt, and eight rushing TDs — not bad for a guy who had only attempted 14 passes in the last two years. His last game against Oklahoma was the biggest of his career. He was very good by almost any measure — three passing touchdowns and two more on the ground. Compared to what we have quickly come to expect from him, though, he was a step below his norm. His accuracy, his YPA, and his yardage fell well short of his season averages. The biggest thing to take from that, though, is that this is not a team that needs their QB to play lights out to win. In other words, there is much more to this team than just a gimmick. The other thing to keep in mind is that an off day for Petty is still better than the best day of a lot of QBs in the country this year.
Loss of Tevin Reese could hurt — but not too much
There was very little not to like in the huge win over Oklahoma. The worst outcome by far, though, was the loss of receiver Tevin Reese for the rest of the season. Reese dislocated his wrist and is expected to be out until the bowl game. He led the team with 25 yards per reception and was second in yards, receptions, and touchdowns. While he will leave a hole, there are six receivers on the team with at least 13 receptions and eight guys who have caught a pass of at least 40 yards, so there is enough depth to overcome this absence. They would obviously rather have him aboard, but they will be fine.
Ability to run is frightening
Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood are the top two running threats on this team. Seastrunk is averaging 8.7 yards per carry, and Linwood is averaging 8.0. Needless to say, that’s pretty darned good. The team is ninth in the country in rushing yardage per game. Add that to an offense that is third in passing, and it’s not a wonder that this team scores points basically at will.
The Bears basically seemed to play seven preseason games before the real five-game regular season got underway. Things are definitely tougher down the stretch than they were earlier, but after the way they handled Oklahoma it is easier to believe in this team than it was up to this point. They next play a Texas Tech team that has fallen to earth, and then they have a trip to TCU and a home game against Texas remaining. Their biggest challenge by far is a trip to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State. That’s a team that lost to West Virginia and allowed Texas Tech to score 34 points, so it’s hard to imagine that Baylor’s up-tempo offense will struggle too badly to score. If this team can keep their heads together, it is tough to imagine them losing more than one game, and an unbeaten season is certainly within their grasp.
Art Briles is an exceptional coach — there is no doubt about that. He has built a strong team here, and it has never been better than this. He’s a big asset to the team. There are some potential concerns. For one, while he has had some good teams, flirting with an undefeated season and a potential BCS Championship Game is a whole new level for him, so it is somewhat uncertain whether he can keep his team focused. He’s also a big name in play for other jobs — most notably Texas, but other openings and potential openings as well — and that could be a distraction the more he wins and the more the talk intensifies.
This team has been very impressive on the field but has performed almost as well for the bettors who have faithfully backed them. The team is 7-1 ATS. They have been favored by at least 17 points all eight games and by at least 30 four times, so it’s not like they are just squeaking by in their victories, either. After the big Oklahoma win they are only going to get more betting attention — they are favored by 27 and growing against Texas Tech - but so far they have done almost all they have been asked to do by bettors.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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