2019 Baylor Bears Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
Matt Rhule has done a remarkable job in his two years coaching the Baylor Bears. He took over a team that was in a total mess after the Art Briles era, broken psychologically and badly undermanned. And Rhule;s first year went about as well as expected - 1-11, with the lone win coming at a Kansas team that seems incapable of actually playing football. But last year was a whole different story. It wasn't always pretty, but the team wound up 6-6 in the regular season, then won a bowl game. A massive step forward - one of the biggest in the country last year. Rhule has been here before - when he took over Temple they were 2-10 the first year, then 6-6. In years three and four there, Rhule won his division and 10 games. It's very unlikely that Rhule will win his division this year, but does he have another big step forward with him in his third year here?
2018 in a Nutshell
Thanks to some soft scheduling, the team had already exceeded 2017's win total through just two games with wins over Abilene Christian and at UTSA. The year before, they opened with losses to UTSA and Liberty, so there was clear improvement already. They then lost to Duke, Beat Kansas again, and then were predictably crushed in Norman by Oklahoma. A home win over Kansas State were followed by tough losses at Texas by a little and West Virginia by a lot. A home win against Oklahoma State put them at five wins and just one victory away from bowl eligibility. That goal proved elusive for two more weeks, though, as they lost at Iowa State and at home against TCU. Their last game was a showdown against Texas Tech in Arlington, and it was a bit of a playoff as it turned out - both teams had five wins, so the winner got a bowl bid. Baylor won it by 11. It was far from a perfect season - they were 4-5 in their conference, lost all four conference road games, and their wins were against the four worst teams in the conference. But it was still serious progress. They earned a spot in Texas Bowl against Vanderbilt and closed out not only with a win but also with perhaps their most complete effort of the year.
Key Additions and Departures
The only Bear to be drafted last year was Jalen Hurd, the receiver who transferred from Tennessee and played his only season with the team last year after sitting out 2017. He had lined up as a running back at Tennessee and had a 1,246 yard season to show for his work, but he was a very solid receiver, tallying a team-best 946 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 209 yards and three scores. That versatility and obvious athleticism was enough for him to be drafted in the third round by San Francisco. Receiver is still a very deep position, though, with three seniors who can start. The rest of the offense is mostly intact, and there is experience to draw from - though shuffling on the offensive line continues to find a combo that works. Three-year starter Blake Blackmar is gone on the line, but he doesn't leave the biggest hole. Of note, John Lovett, who has led the team in rushing the last two yards without putting up huge numbers, played at safety in spring ball.
The defense lost DE Greg Roberts from a defensive line that is definitely a work in progress. And corner Harrison Hand transferred out, leaving a secondary really lacking in depth. The defense likely won't be stellar, but they ranked 91st in points allowed last year, so it's not like they are coming from a place of strength. Small improvements that come with more familiarity with the system seem possible.
Baylor had the 35th ranked recruiting class, which was actually just slightly worse than the year prior. They ranked fourth in the Big 12 for the second straight year. The class included two four-star players - a pro style QB, and an athlete who played QB in high school. With junior Charlie Brewer well entrenched at QB, we aren't likely to see either in the short term.
Biggest Area of Concern
Protection up front. Brewer had a solid passing year, and the team ranked in the Top 20 nationally in yards. But the offensive line allowed Baylor's QBs to be sacked more than any team in the Big 12. A lack of consistent production made it tough for the team to run and meant that they struggled to convert yardage into points as they should have. They need to be much better.
Baylor Bears Schedule Analysis
The team starts off with a very easy stretch of games - Stephen F. Austin, UTSA, and at Rice. Then comes conference play. They really need a road win this year, and with games at Kansas and Kansas State, expected to be the two worst teams in the conference, that could happen. They also play at Oklahoma State and TCU. The worst break in the schedule is that they have to play Oklahoma and Texas in consecutive weeks in November. That could be demoralizing, though an upset that late would obviously be massive, and both games come at home.
2019-20 Baylor Bears Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has Baylor at +30000 to win the national title, which is in the realm where it obviously isn't going to happen - but we didn't need futures odds to tell us that. They are tied with TCU as the fifth choice to win the Big 12 at +1800, though that is very, very far behind favored Oklahoma at -125.
2019-20 Baylor Bears Predictions and College Football Picks
The schedule sets up for at least incremental improvement. They should get three nonconference wins instead of two, and two road wins instead of none. Two of their home games are brutal, and Iowa State won't be easy, but if they can beat Texas Tech and West Virginia, that would get them to seven wins. And they could always steal a win somewhere else, too. A record of 7-5 and another bowl feels like a realistic expectations, but Rhule could show us more than that.
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