Why No. 4 Baylor Will And Won't Win The National Championship

By Mike Craven/@CravenMike and Emily Van Buskirk/@Emilnem

Behind the fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans, the Baylor Bears enter the season ranked fourth in the AP Poll, but the program isn’t the highest-ranked team in the Big 12. That distinction goes to TCU.

Why Baylor Won’t Win The Title

The reason Baylor won’t be national champions is because you have to actually make it to the College Football Playoff field first.

Ouch, too soon? Whatever, the Bears need to get over it, conference championship or no conference championship.

Many Bears players have said in interviews that their memory is “long” and that last year is hard to forget. If that is the case, how will Art Briles & Co. ever put it behind them?

Playing a weak non-conference schedule helps, I’m sure.

But the fact is, Baylor is Bryce Petty-less, and the new QB, fourth-year junior Seth Russell, racked up most of his “experience” in games against SMU, Northwestern State, Buffalo and Kansas. So there’s that.

Also, the Bears' defense will need to make more stops: Baylor allowed more than 40 points four times last season and gave up an average of 264.2 passing yards per game, ranking 107th in the nation. The Bears return the same secondary, so there is also that. Plus, they have a freshman punter.

Baylor has 12-1 odds to win the national championship, but if Baylor doesn’t go 12-0 on the season, expect the committee to leave the Bears out in the cold again. Also expect to see Briles throw Bob Bowlsby more shade when it’s all over. —Emily

Why Baylor Will Win The Title

The Bears are more talented than any team in the Big 12, and one team will make it from the conference this year after being left out last season. Baylor is known for a powerful offense that relies on the quarterback position, but the Bears will be great in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Offensive tackle Spencer Drango, defensive tackle Andrew Billings and defensive end Shawn Oakman will all be high NFL draft picks.

That isn’t to say Baylor won’t be explosive again in 2015. Russell is taking over at quarterback, and Briles is no stranger to success with a new quarterback at the helm. Russell will have plenty of athletes to choose from when distributing the ball. Corey Coleman is the best wide receiver in the state, and sophomore KD Cannon isn’t far behind. Running back Shock Linwood gives Baylor balance on offense to compliment the aerial attack.

The Bears beat TCU in 2014. That game this year will likely determine which Big 12 team reaches the College Football Playoff. TCU has an edge at quarterback on paper, but the two teams are even after that. If Baylor can overcome off-the-field distractions, the Bears are more than ready to compete with the nation’s elite. —Craven

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