Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. This is a football preview
This preview series begins in February and continues for six months. The schedule is arranged at the start, and then the boulder rolls downhill for the next six months.
Baylor's turn under the microscope came up just as the school was firing head coach Art Briles for a series of acts that ranged from foolish to mortifying. You can find all the details about that here. You probably have already.
We elected to postpone the Baylor preview for reasons both related and unrelated to football. On the practical side, it didn't make sense to preview a team that was in the middle of losing quite a few signees and transfers. Waiting a while would allow the dust to settle in that regard.
Really, it just didn't make sense to talk about football at all. Baylor University put on a How to Lose Your Soul and Morals in the Name of Winning Football master class. It was a perfect demonstration of how to endanger the students on your campus in the name of entertaining them. People who had to be trustworthy were not.
Granted, this is only about Baylor for the moment. Soon it will be about someone else. The cultural issues, the circumstances that have failed to stem sexual assault problems on campus -- both within athletic programs and outside of them -- remain the same.
There were plenty of unique circumstances and terrible decisions that helped to create Baylor's mess. But these problems will continue until we address at least one very specific issue: So many women find difficulty when it comes to reporting an incident to proper authorities, as Baylor illustrated in several ways.
"Will the school take this seriously? Will fans find my name? Is this even worth it?" These are real thoughts that go through a victim's head. It happened at Baylor, and it happens elsewhere. That school administrators could so thoroughly lose sight of their duties is terrifying, but as fans, we don't have direct control over that.
We do, however, have control over acting like human beings.
Fans are the greatest thing about sports. The identity, the camaraderie, the passion, etc. Without fans, sports don't exist. Fans are also the worst thing about sports. Winning is intoxicating, and we turn against anything or anyone who might prevent it. We create conspiracy theories. We lash out. We search the internet for personal information of those standing in our way. We become something far less than human.
I'm talking about the fans of schools who have been involved in things like this in recent years, going on social media to reveal the identity of a woman who's made claims, making her life hellish in public, and attempting to punish her for allegations that could hurt the team whose colors you root for.
I'm also talking about many of the rival fans who hold themselves above that behavior, but would have done the same thing. The ones who tweet about "#RapeScandals" to rival recruits, who pile on because of ESPN's Outside the Lines reports, then rage against ESPN when the microscope is turned on their own school.
Universities have a lot to fix, but this is the thing fans can do to help solve the problem: Take claims seriously and show human respect for women who tell authorities about crimes.
Humanity trumps fandom. We frequently get opportunities to prove we understand this, and we frequently fail.
Baylor's going to play a 2016 football season. Here's a look at it.
|Record: 10-3 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 14 | Final S&P+ Rk: 14|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|3-Oct||vs. Texas Tech||60||63-35||W||87%||99%||+15.1||+11.0|
|5-Nov||at Kansas State||81||31-24||W||67%||91%||-11.2||-10.0|
|21-Nov||at Oklahoma State||40||45-35||W||81%||93%||+7.7||+10.0|
|29-Dec||vs. North Carolina||24||49-38||W||82%||89%||+5.9||+9.0|
|Points Per Game||48.1||1||28.3||79|
2. The QB position is evidently important
A few months back, when we last saw Baylor on the field, we were watching the Bears beat a pretty good team despite basically not having a quarterback.
In seven games with Seth Russell, the Bears were as consistently strong as ever. They were destroying decent teams like Texas Tech (by 28 points) and West Virginia (by 24) and obliterating lesser teams. Both S&P+ and Vegas were struggling to keep up with how good Baylor looked.
But then Russell injured his neck against Iowa State and was lost for the season. Blue-chip freshman Jarrett Stidham took over and looked respectable, but then he got hurt. QB-turned-WR-turned-QB Chris Johnson moved into the lineup, struggled quite a bit in the passing game, then got hurt, too. Baylor played most of the Texas game with slot receiver Lynx Hawthorne the No. 1 QB.
The result was predictable. It's hard to maintain consistency when you can't keep a quarterback healthy.
- First 7 games:
Record: 7-0 | Avg. Percentile Performance: 89% (~top 15) | Avg. Score: BU 61, Opp 25 (+36) | Avg. Performance vs. S&P+ projection: +10.9 PPG
- Last 6 games:
Record: 3-3 | Avg. Percentile Performance: 61% (~top 50) | Avg. Score: BU 33, Opp 32 (+1) | Avg. Performance vs. S&P+ projection: -8.5 PPG
The offense was so good in the first seven games (plus the bowl) that BU ranked first in Off. S&P+ despite the injuries. That is astounding.
This is what Grobe inherits. The 64-year-old former Wake Forest and Ohio head coach was named the interim for 2016, and he walks into a situation with more pure talent than he has ever coached.
Baylor recruiting is a shambles, in part because of the scandal and in part because there won't be a permanent staff until about December. But as far as 2016 goes, the hire of Grobe makes some sense. He has the prior reputation of being a good guy, and he is used to attempting to win in difficult circumstances (even if Wake's definition of "difficult" is far different than Baylor's at the moment).
The roster attrition of the last couple of months has created pockets of tenuous depth -- Stidham and Johnson are gone, among others, which means drop-off will be significant if Russell gets hurt -- but the starting 22 should still be one of the Big 12's best. We'll just have to see how much of the 22 can stay on the field.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||50.3%||5||Succ. Rt. +||112.0||26|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||30.6||87||Def. FP+||29.9||72|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||5.6||1||Redzone S&P+||118.3||14|
|Q1 Rk||4||1st Down Rk||21|
|Q2 Rk||54||2nd Down Rk||16|
|Q3 Rk||11||3rd Down Rk||32|
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Seth Russell||6'3, 220||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8570||119||200||2104||29||6||59.5%||3||1.5%||10.3|
|Lynx Hawthorne||6'0, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8448||11||23||66||0||2||47.8%||1||4.2%||2.1|
|Zack Bennema||6'4, 225||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Zach Smith||6'4, 225||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8809|
|Preston Heard||5'10, 185||Fr.||NR||NR|
3. Wrap Seth in bubble wrap
Russell's completion rate could have been higher, but for the most part he was playing the role of Perfect Baylor Quarterback before he got hurt. I mean, seriously? 10.3 yards per attempt? Three sacks in 203 pass attempts? 29 touchdowns to six INTs? Those are ridiculous numbers, and the only reason he wasn't getting serious Heisman hype when he went down is because we've come to expect ridiculous from Baylor quarterbacks. It's almost impossible to stand out statistically at this point.
If Russell's healthy, it's hard to imagine this offense struggling, especially with Kendal Briles still calling the plays.
But if Baylor goes through the same injury crisis as last year ... well ... I went ahead and listed a couple of walk-ons above, just in case.
|Shock Linwood||RB||5'9, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8460||198||1329||10||6.7||5.6||50.5%||1||1|
|Johnny Jefferson||RB||5'10, 205||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8681||136||1000||8||7.4||5.6||54.4%||2||2|
|Terence Williams||RB||6'2, 225||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9079||88||556||3||6.3||4.3||51.1%||0||0|
|Seth Russell||QB||6'3, 220||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8570||46||414||6||9.0||9.4||52.2%||2||1|
|Lynx Hawthorne||WR||6'0, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8448||16||145||2||9.1||7.9||62.5%||2||2|
|JaMycal Hasty||RB||5'9, 200||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8068|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|KD Cannon||WR||6'0, 180||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9853||92||51||881||55.4%||24.7%||9.6||68.5%||48.9%||1.85|
|Chris Platt||IR||5'11, 170||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8601||24||11||155||45.8%||6.4%||6.5||75.0%||37.5%||1.60|
|Ishmael Zamora||WR||6'4, 220||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8834||12||10||156||83.3%||3.2%||13.0||83.3%||75.0%||1.68|
|Lynx Hawthorne||IR||6'0, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8448||12||10||95||83.3%||3.2%||7.9||66.7%||66.7%||1.13|
|Shock Linwood||RB||5'9, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8460||9||9||71||100.0%||2.4%||7.9||55.6%||66.7%||1.18|
|Quan Jones||WR||6'5, 220||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8628||3||3||34||100.0%||0.8%||11.3||100.0%||66.7%||1.64|
|Jordan Feuerbacher||TE||6'4, 255||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8514||2||0||0||0.0%||0.5%||0.0||50.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Blake Lynch||IR||6'3, 205||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9199|
|Pooh Stricklin||WR||6'2, 185||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8782|
|Sam Tecklenburg||TE||6'3, 270||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8432|
|Jared Atkinson||WR||6'2, 200||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8781|
4. Big-play guys: gone. Efficiency guys: back.
In part because of late-season issues, Baylor's efficiency numbers weren't as strong as they could have been, but big plays were still a huge asset.
That balance could flip. Russell isn't the most efficient passer, but in Shock Linwood, Johnny Jefferson, and Terence Williams, Russell should share the backfield with three backs who each managed an opportunity rate over 50 percent in 2015. Their level of explosiveness wasn't quite what we're used to from Baylor running backs, but until defenses were able to gang up on the run (i.e., when non-passers started taking snaps at QB), they were consistent and efficient.
Baylor might have to lean on that more. Coleman and Jay Lee combined to catch 8.6 passes per game (again, with no QB for part of the season) at 18.9 yards per catch and 11.8 yards per target. They were incredible big-play threats. You never know if the next batch is going to be as effective deep.
QB issues distracted us, but Baylor's receiving corps was thinner than expected. Coleman, Lee, and KD Cannon were the only three players targeted at least 25 times, and Cannon is the only returnee who caught more than 11 passes last year.
One assumes that among players like Hawthorne, sophomore Chris Platt, and Blake Lynch on the inside and sophomore Ishmael Zamora, and redshirt freshman Pooh Stricklin on the outside, someone will step up. But that didn't ring true a year ago; this unit has more to prove than normal, and leaning on the run might be the preferable option.
(Then again, with the typical Baylor schedule -- the season starts with three non-conference games, all against opponents projected 98th or worse -- the Bears will have plenty of time to break in younger weapons.)
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Spencer Drango||LT||13||48||Outland Trophy finalist, 2015 All-American, 2015 1st All-Big 12|
|Jarell Broxton||RG||13||21||2015 1st All-Big 12|
|Kyle Fuller||C||6'5, 310||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8766||13||26||2015 2nd All-Big 12|
|Blake Blackmar||LG||6'5, 345||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8417||1||1|
|Ishmael Wilson||LT||6'4, 305||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9153||0||0|
|Rami Hammad||RG||6'4, 340||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8962||0||0|
|Dom Desouza||LT||6'6, 295||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8387||0||0|
|Mo Porter||RT||6'5, 310||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8741||0||0|
|Tanner Thrift||RG||6'5, 305||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8032||0||0|
|Patrick Lawrence||RT||6'6, 310||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8342||0||0|
|Josh Pelzel||OL||6'6, 320||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8585||0||0|
5. Rebuild up front, part 1
Baylor has been really good in the trenches. Last year's line kept an extraordinarily clean backfield, which made it even more jarring how many injuries the QBs suffered.
But with four starters and the top backup gone, the 2016 line is almost guaranteed to suffer more glitches.
All-conference center Kyle Fuller is back, and the pipeline features four former four-star recruits, including juniors Ishmael Wilson and Rami Hammad. [Update: Hammad was suspended from team activities after a stalking arrest earlier this month.] Size won't be an issue (average size of the 11 linemen listed above: 6'5, 321), but while the down-to-down success should be there, BU will have to deal with a few more breakdowns.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||39.3%||49||Succ. Rt. +||110.5||32|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||30.3||55||Off. FP+||30.3||56|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.7||97||Redzone S&P+||102.3||63|
|Q1 Rk||40||1st Down Rk||23|
|Q2 Rk||12||2nd Down Rk||28|
|Q3 Rk||25||3rd Down Rk||29|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|K.J. Smith||DE||6'2, 265||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8553||13||19.0||2.4%||5.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Byron Bonds||DT||6'2, 290||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8163||8||4.5||0.6%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Greg Roberts||DE||6'6, 260||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8249||5||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Andrew Morris||NT||6'1, 285||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8004|
|Xavier Jones||DE||6'3, 245||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8311|
|Jamie Jacobs||DE||6'5, 255||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8157|
|Ira Lewis||NT||6'3, 300||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8138|
|Tyrone Hunt||DT||6'5, 280||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7719|
|Bravvion Roy||NT||6'1, 315||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8913|
6. Rebuild up front, part 2
Baylor's been so offensively dominant for so long: seventh or better in Off. S&P+ for five straight seasons, third or better in four.
When they were at their best under Briles, they required only top-40 defensive efforts. They went 16-2 in the Big 12 in 2013-14 with defenses that ranked 26th and 39th, respectively, in Def. S&P+. In 2015, they fell to 64th and lost three games for the first time in three years.
Most of 2015's issues came in the redzone. Baylor had top-40 efficiency and explosiveness ratings but allowed 4.7 points per scoring opportunity. And that was with a strong defensive front.
This year's biggest defensive issue is the same as its biggest offensive issue: a rebuild in the trenches. All four of last year's starters are gone, leaving junior ends K.J. Smith and no other proven options.
Senior Byron Bonds (the "leading" returning tackler among the DTs with 4.5) and JUCO transfer Jeremy Faulk ended spring on the first string, but now Faulk has left the team. For a unit that was already low on contributors in the middle, so much change has to be a serious concern. A sturdy line has been so important to Baylor's defensive efforts, and it doesn't appear the Bears will have one this year.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Taylor Young||WLB||5'10, 225||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893||12||70.0||8.9%||13.5||4.0||0||1||0||0|
|Aiavion Edwards||WLB||6'1, 230||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8896||13||50.0||6.4%||4.0||2.0||0||2||1||0|
|Raaquan Davis||MLB||6'2, 225||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8712||13||19.5||2.5%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Clay Johnston||WLB||6'3, 220||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8378|
|Jordan Williams||WLB||6'1, 220||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7933|
|Deonte Williams||LB||6'2, 215||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8656|
7. The pass rush was lacking
As sturdy as the run defense was, even with last year's starting four, Baylor ranked only 66th in Adj. Sack Rate. And now every lineman responsible for at least one sack is gone.
The middling pass rush contributed to problems on passing downs. Opponents were able to use draw plays with nice effect, and the pass rush didn't get home enough to justify the risk.
We'll see if coordinator Phil Bennett plays things more conservatively. If the line isn't as disruptive, he'd have a choice between getting more aggressive in blitzing with his linebackers and safeties or pulling back into more of a bend-don't-break tendency. Knowing Bennett, it would be the former.
At the least, he'd still has a nice attacker in Taylor Young, who recorded 13.5 TFLs (mostly against the run) as a sophomore. Linebacker depth could quickly become a concern if either Young or Alavion Edwards gets hurt, but they are solid options in the middle, and as long as they're on the field, the LB unit is proven.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Travon Blanchard||NB||6'2, 210||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8516||13||75.0||9.5%||7.5||2||2||6||4||0|
|Chance Waz||S||6'0, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8229||13||62.0||7.9%||1||0||0||3||0||0|
|Orion Stewart||S||6'2, 205||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||10||57.0||7.3%||1.5||1||1||3||1||0|
|Taion Sells||S||5'10, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8306||13||39.0||5.0%||3.5||0||1||3||0||0|
|Ryan Reid||CB||5'11, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9020||13||24.5||3.1%||1||0||3||8||0||0|
|Patrick Levels||NB||5'11, 195||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8133||13||16.0||2.0%||2||1||0||2||1||0|
|Tion Wright||CB||5'10, 180||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8056||10||3.0||0.4%||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Tyler Jaynes||NB||6'2, 205||Jr.||NR||NR||8||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Verkedric Vaughns||CB||5'10, 195||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8392||11||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Davion Hall||S||6'2, 205||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9753|
|Jourdan Blake||S||6'0, 185||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8543|
|Jordan Tolbert||CB||5'11, 180||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8579|
|Tony Nicholson||CB||5'10, 190||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8529|
|Henry Black||S||6'0, 200||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8472|
|Jameson Houston||CB||6'2, 200||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8249|
8. All the safeties you need
If the front six holds up, the secondary should be good enough to make plays. There could be issue at cornerback, where Ryan Reid is the only returning regular. But the safety position is loaded.
Travon Blanchard is a fantastic nickel, combining aggressive pass defense (eight passes defensed) with lots of time in the backfield (7.5 TFLs). Junior Chance Waz and seniors Orion Stewart, Taion Sells, and Patrick Levels are all solid, too. If an even decent corner option emerges -- redshirt freshman Jameson Houston or Henry Black? Junior Davion Hall? Sophomore Verkedric Vaughns? -- he'll have cover behind him. If the run defense doesn't crater, the pass defense should be fine.
|Drew Galitz||6'0, 205||So.||40||40.7||0||15||11||65.0%|
|Chris Callahan||5'9, 205||Jr.||83-83||8-10||80.0%||0-3||0.0%|
|Chris Platt||KR||5'11, 170||So.||13||27.6||0|
|KD Cannon||KR||6'0, 180||Jr.||7||16.3||0|
|Lynx Hawthorne||PR||6'0, 200||Sr.||10||5.0||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||124|
|Field Goal Efficiency||113|
|Punt Return Success Rate||97|
|Kick Return Success Rate||68|
|Punt Success Rate||120|
|Kickoff Success Rate||83|
9. Dreadful and experienced
Returning almost everyone from a bad unit isn't necessarily the best thing in the world, but if there's a plus with Baylor's special teams unit, it's that last year's biggest weakness (punting) was rarely used, and the best returning strength (Chris Platt in kick returns) will probably be used frequently.
That's only so much of a positive, though. Despite a great offense, Baylor ranked only 71st in field position margin last year. That will become a more important factor if either the offense or defense regress this fall.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|1-Oct||at Iowa State||71||11.6||75%|
|25-Nov||vs. Texas Tech||43||9.9||72%|
|3-Dec||at West Virginia||33||3.7||58%|
|Projected wins: 9.0|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||35.3% (10)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||27 / 30|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||0 / 0.1|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||0.0|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||69% (71%, 66%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||10.6 (-0.6)|
10. Baylor's still going to be pretty good (this year)
The S&P+ projected win totals above remind us that the schedule starts pretty easy, no matter the coach or contents of the two-deep.
But the hire of Grobe is so unique that it's impossible to predict the effect. When Arkansas fired Bobby Petrino in the spring of 2012 and replaced him with John L. Smith, the Razorbacks plummeted from 11-2 to 4-8. Grobe isn't Smith, and Arkansas' 2012 team didn't feature the amount of raw offensive talent that Grobe inherits.
Under Briles, Baylor went from laughingstock to Big 12 power. The Bears went from having a stadium with tarped and covered seating to a fancy new house on the Brazos River.
He blew it all by forgetting where the line was between winning games and being a human being. He leaves with another black cloud hanging over the program, one of his own doing.
The Bears will play football this year. And if they can avoid a nasty battle with the injury bug, they should be pretty good at it. The defense is probably not going to be disruptive enough for Baylor to make a Big 12 title run, but ambition went out the window a couple of months ago.
For Baylor's football program itself, this season should be about getting priorities back in proper order and bracing for a strange, thin future.