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Baylor Football

Baylor back in a bowl game: Why they will and why they won't

May 11, 2018

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There are now less than 2,710 hours from the start of the 2018 season, a season in which the same Baylor head coach will walk onto the sideline to open the season for just the second-consecutive fall since 2015. Is that worth a win? It depends on how you look at it. 

When Baylor's 2018 seniors last played a season under a head coach that had been in Waco for longer than one season, they were redshirt freshmen. Is familiarity worth something? If nothing more, being familiar with the scheme is valuable. 

Finding reasons to circle wins on the schedule are a little more difficult to come by these days in Waco.

The Bears went to seven bowl games in a row from 2010 to 2016, winning four of them. They won two Big 12 Championships in that span, their most recent when some of the current seniors were redshirt freshmen in 2014. And I shouldn't forget to mention they added a Heisman (2011) and Biletnikoff (2015) to their trophy case as well.

All of that was fine and good, but missing a bowl game in year eight took the edge off of the momentum (among many other things that took place in the 18 months prior) and has the 2018 season viewed as one of the most important seasons in the history of the program. 

Matt Rhule's staff has done a remarkable job on the recruiting trail through 2 1/2 classes, something that you're already familiar with as you're reading this behind the SicEm365 Premium wall. But a second lost season in 2018 would devastate a devastated fan base even more while pushing any momentum the program has out a window on the top floor of the ALICO Building across I-35 from McLane Stadium. No, finding the Brazos at the bottom of the fall is probably not an option. 

Will Baylor find a way to get to six wins and back to the postseason? Here are three reasons why they will and three reasons why they won't.

Why they will: Charlie Brewer. Not to put too much pressure on the young man, but Brewer was the most exciting Baylor freshman QB to watch since... RG3 (sorry, Jarrett). His arm will need to have actually improved the way it's rumored to have improved during the offseason, and he's going to have cut out the costly turnovers in key situations that could have cost Baylor at least one additional win in 2017, but what kind of normal freshman completes 70.7% of his passes in the first four starts of their career?

Why they won't: Not enough offensive line improvement in just one offseason. It's the hottest debated topic since the day the 2017 season ended. Where will the additional pieces come from and how will the pieces in place actually improve? The Bears add Jake Fruhmorgen and junior college transfer Johncarlo Valentin‍ to the line as experience pieces, but that's it. Two pieces are going to help revamp one of the worst rushing lines in college football? Baylor fans better hope. 

Why they will: Phil Snow's defense has found the pieces to the puzzle at most positions on the defense. Blake Lynch is now at safety, Derrek Thomas adds another dimension at the corner position, Clay Johnston is healthy, and James Lynch has shown signs of being budding star and All-Big 12 caliber defensive lineman. Throw in Grayland Arnold, Harrison Hand, Ira Lewis and a few other playmakers and a defense that grew up in the back half of 2017 should grow up even more as the season begins.

Why the won't: No. Pass. Rush. Yikes. BJ Thompson, Xavier Jones and Deonte Williams have the potential to create a little havoc, but outside of Jones' 9.5 career tackles for loss and career 2.5 sacks, the three haven't proven much of anything. Phil Snow doesn't want to have to create pressure with any other positions, but it looks inevitable that it's going to have to be dialed up.

Why they will: Is it too early to say that Baylor has one of their most complete running back groups in recent memory, second to possibly only the 2013 squad that was made up of Lache Seastrunk, Glasco Martin, Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin? JaMycal Hasty, John Lovett and Trestan Ebner need a star to emerge among them, but there is an interesting dynamic that is forming between them. How it translates to the field in 2018 is something to keep an eye on. 

Why they won't: Baylor won just a single game last year. Improving a record by five wins from one to six is a difficult task, especially when you consider the difficultly of improving from six to 11 wins in any different season. Yes, the Bears took multiple games to the final quarter with a great chance at claiming victory, but turnovers, lack of execution, and inability to perform did them in. Youthful mistakes can be learned from, but they don't disappear in one offseason. 


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