Baylor Bears Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
The Baylor Bears desperately need to move on from the mess of the end of the Art Briles era. Jim Grobe as interim coach last year never really seemed like a good idea, and after a strong start everything just fell apart. The program needed to take drastic action to get back on track, and they did a very good job of it. Matt Rhule turned a clueless and drifting Temple squad into a force in just four years. He went from 2-10 in Year 1 to 10-4 in Year 3, and 10-3 the next year before he left for this job. Rhule is going to succeed at Baylor. I feel confident in that. It just remains to be seen how long it takes him to get there.
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2016 in a Nutshell
The team started out 6-0 and climbed all the way to No. 8 in the rankings. At a closer glance, though, it wasn't as impressive as it seems. They beat Oklahoma State, which deserves credit, but the rest of the teams they beat were a long way from challenging. They proved little, and once the meat of the season arrived things got ugly. They lost at Texas. Then to TCU. Then at Oklahoma. Then to Kansas State. Then to Texas Tech and their invisible defense. And finally at West Virginia. They went from 6-0 to 6-6 in a flash. They wound up playing Boise State, another team that found some hard times last year, in their bowl game. Baylor finally got back to winning ways, but not before making it clear that pretty much everything needed to change with this program if they wanted to snap out of their funk.
Key Additions and Departures
Get used to a different look on offense. Baylor was wild and crazy with the ball under Briles. Rhule's offense is often boring - effective, but boring. Zach Smith is back at QB, but he is far from certain to get the job. Former Arizona starter Anu Solomon is in town as a grad transfer. When he is at his best he's impressive, but he's far from consistent. And freshman Charlie Brewer has plenty of promise. It will be a completely open contest, and there is no clear leader. They have their top two rushers returning, three strong receivers, and three of their five linemen. They have a solid core and some nice depth to draw on. With some good luck and good coaching they'll be just fine.
Let's be honest - the defense last year was not good. Far from it, in fact. The coaching change on defense was badly needed. New coordinator Phil Snow has a lot of experience to work with to try to get things back on track. The entire line returns intact, and they have four linebackers and four defensive backs returning. They lost their two best safeties, but they have experienced depth to draw on there, too. The pieces are here to make this a much better defense, and that's not even accounting for any new blood.
Recruiting was hit hard by the Brile controversy, Grobe's lame duck status, and Rhule's late start. The top seven recruits from the class left after Briles did, and they never really recovered. They have 28 new additions, but the Top 40 class doesn't have anyone better than a three star. This is a hole Rhule will have to climb out of.
Baylor Bears Schedule Analysis
Rhule gets an early gift - a 3-0 start. He's going to beat Liberty, UTSA and Duke. But then it gets ugly - they play Oklahoma, at Kansas State and at Oklahoma State. West Virginia will be easier again, but then Texas could be tough. They go back to easier games with Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State, before a tough final game at TCU. 7-5 probably feels like a reasonable floor barring a disaster, and nine wins feels like the right number. That would be a strong accomplishment for Rhule.
2017-18 Baylor Bears Betting Odds and Trends
The Bears aren't getting a lot of respect from oddsmakers. BetOnline currently lists 36 teams with odds to win the national title, and Baylor is not one of them. No loss there - if you are someone who would want to bet on Baylor for some reason then they are saving you from yourself. They are +2500 to win the Big 12, which has them seventh in the conference.
The team was as much of a disaster for bettors as they were on the field in the second half. They were just 4-9 ATS, and had streaks of three and five games without a cover. They went "over" the total just four times in 13 tries.
2017-18 Baylor Bears Predictions and College Football Picks
Anything could happen with this team, but I expect them to put together a good record. They will play with much more discipline and enthusiasm than they have up to this point. The change in leadership and playing style will bring some growing pains with it, but finally having some positivity around the program will be a big bonus. I expect them to play tough and perhaps surprise. I could even argue that there is some value in that +2500 price to win the conference. It's not that they are likely winners, but they control their destiny more than some because they play both Texas and Oklahoma at home. And thanks to the return of the Big 12 Championship Game this year things get a little easier for teams -- they have to finish only in the top two in the regular season standings to have a shot at the conference title.
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