"What goes up, must come down."
~ Sir Isaac Hayes, 1492
2011 was kind to Baylor. But we're bearish on the Bears in 2012.
Welcome to the 2012 Baylor State of the Union, Texas fans! Today marks the first of two days this year that you will notice that Baylor has a football team.
Last year, while you were busy paying attention to interesting football programs, Baylor somehow managed to have an excellent season. In football. Yes. Football. (I know, right?!?) The Bears went 10-3, with wins over teams that people outside of Waco have actually heard of and find worthy of their attention, such as Texas, Oklahoma, the University of Washington. A Heisman Trophy for quarterback extraordinaire and exemplary good-kid-who-would-have-graduated-had-he-not-had-a-better-offer, Robert Griffin III, was the cherry on top of BU's Best. Season. Evaarrrr!!1!1!!! At least I assume it was Baylor's best season ever. I honestly can't recall Baylor ever winning or, for that matter, participating in a football game prior to last season.
Propelled by their 2011 success, loaded with un-Baylor-like talent across the field, and with proven winner Art Briles at the helm, there can be no doubt that the Bears are on the upswing. A team that not long ago monopolized the Big XII cellar -- BU won no more than a single conference game each year between 1996-2004 -- has quickly moved itself into the top half of the conference.
But can the Bears sustain their one-year winning streak? Can Baylor continue to pile up Heisman trophies, fill NFL draft boards, and run roughshod over a handful of the Big XII's better teams, as they did last year? Can I think of anything to write about besides Baylor's pretty good 2011 season? WILL THIS BARRAGE OF ANNOYING QUESTIONS NEVER END? Continue reading to find out the answers to these and other cherry-picked, yet still somehow uninteresting, questions about the 2012 Baylor Bears!
Sophisticated Computational Projections
The uniqueness of Baylor's 2011 success cannot be overstated. Don't believe me? Well, why don't we look at some charts, Mr. Skeptical Blog Reader? And maybe then we'll figure out which one of us actually went to the trouble of conducting some harried, sloppy research on the Baylor Bears the night before his SOTU was due, and which one of us is just sitting smugly in an internet cafe with a weathered copy of "Leaves of Grass" tucked under one arm, delicately sipping a mocha, and smirking in glib self satisfaction at his Apple Airbook as he mutters snarky comments about my half-assed work product. Mmmkay?
It's hard to improve in any statistical category by more than a factor of infinity, but the Bears came very close to doing just that. And Baylor's stunning ascent is not limited to just post-season games. As illustrated below, Baylor showed similar improvement in post-season player awards as well:
The Bears' stepwise uptick in on-field success re-energized the Baylor fan base. As the season progressed and the wins racked up, BU fans continued to crawl out from behind the woodwork. Baylor pride achieved such a high level that, during last season's game against Texas, the ear-splitting squeals from drunken flocks of trampy Baptist cockteases at the Black Sheep Lodge managed to drown out Vasherized's audible sobbing. Never have I been so happy to watch Baylor score touchdown after touchdown on my beloved Longhorns.
Tangible evidence of this increase in Baylor school spirit is evident in the following statistic:
So what does all of this statistical mumbo jumbo mean for Baylor in 2012? I'm glad I asked that! It just so happens that I recently punched the stats above into Barking Carnival's newly-leased Tandy 3000 and, a mere 4 hours later, it spat out the following chart predicting Baylor's 2012 conference record:
So there you have it. Baylor will win exactly 13.82 Big 12 games in 2012. Bears on the upswing, indeed! If you believe in the power of mathematics and cutting-edge Radio Shack technology, there's no need to read further. If, however, you are some kind of bleeding-heart, tree-hugging communist who believes in the transcendental power of human beings to overcome the shackles of science, instinct, and immutable logic, read on.
Key Returning Players: Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese
X-factors: The young tackles, Lache Seastrunk
When it comes to offense, I have some good news and some bad news for BU supporters. The good news, Baylor fans: Baylor returns seven offensive starters! The bad news, Bears: Those seven returning starters aren't any good. Okay, maybe that's overstating things. But those seven starters exclude the three most productive Baylor players from last year's squad and two NFL draftees on the offensive line.
In 2011, Baylor's offense was phenomenal, finishing #2 nationwide in yards-per-game and #1 nationally in yards-per-play. But Baylor's 2011 offense is now playing in the NFL. 76% of Baylor's rushing yards, 95% of its passing yards, and nearly 40% of its receiving yards have moved on. The phrase "crashing back to Earth" was coined for precisely Baylor's predicament. The Branch Davidians are more likely to pull off a comeback than the 2012 Bears.
Let's talk positions.
At quarterback, Baylor will have to replace last year's starter, the human scoring machine that was Robert Griffin III. But, as always, the Bears will be fine at signal caller. I can't remember a single season since I've been paying attention to Baylor that the Bears didn't have a Heisman winner at quarterback. And Griffin's replacement, senior Nick Florence, isn't an untested slouch. He passed for 1,786 yards when Griffin was injured in 2009. Florence's experience, and Art Briles's offensive genius, should give Wacoians (Wacoites? Wacoers?) hope that the drop-off in Baylor's offensive production may not prove as dire as many predict. Assuming there is someone other than me predicting anything about Baylor football, of course.
Baylor must also find a way to replace its leading receiver and NFL first-round pick Kendall Wright. Fortunately, Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese, and Lanear Sampson, who combined for a collective 2,406 receiving yards, all return. That trio is another reason for Baptist optimism in the post-RGIII era.
For the second straight year, Baylor will have to replace its leading rusher. Terrance Ganaway broke Baylor school rushing records in 2011, but few remember that he was a relatively unknown commodity entering last season. Baylor has a trio of running backs (Jarred Salubi, Glasco Martin, and Longhorn fan favorite Lache Seastrunk) who will all vie for carries. It will be nice to see Seastrunk on our TV screens without having to pay his "guardian" $5,000 for the privilege.
The Bears return three starters from last season's excellent offensive line, but two will play new positions. In a bizarre move that is the work of either an evil genius or a raving lunatic, Coach Briles shifted both of his starting tackles inside -- Cyril Richardson to guard and Ivory Wade to center -- and installed two underclassmen at the tackle positions (R-Fr Spencer Drango and Soph Troy Baker). This could be a clue that Briles intends to rely on the running game more in 2012. Or it could mean that the underclassmen are just that damned good. It's hard to tell which is the case when, like pretty much everyone, you don't give a rat's ass about Baylor football.
Key Returning Players: Ahmad Dixon
X-factors: acts of God, dumb luck, voodoo hexes
In 2011, Baylor's defense was the perfect foil to its potent offense. Whereas the offense was charged with racking up yards and points at a rate so obscene it made Larry Flynt blush, the defense was apparently instructed to "make things interesting out there." Or maybe they just sucked. It's hard to tell.
The Baylor Bear.
(Photo by istolethetv, subject to Creative Commons License)
Baylor fans should be excited that their most talented defender, nickle back Ahmad Dixon, returns for his junior season. If history is any indication of future performance, I expect Dixon to nab an interception this season. He's a nice player. You may recall Texas recruited him until he committed and decommitted from six different schools in an eight week period before finally coming "home" to Waco. So he's their lone stud on defense. Unfortunately for BU, football is a team sport. The Bears also return two multi-year starters at the end positions, senior Gary Mason, Jr. and junior Terrance Lloyd. Baylor DC Phil Bennett can count on that tandem to terrorize opponents' quarterbacks to the tune of a combined 0.4 sacks-per-game and a few damn close to TFLs.
The Bears will be replacing both DTs and their MLB. That's good news for Longhorn fans. Texas's powerful ground game should tear up the soft, delicious middle of Baylor's defense like Jeff Madden at a 2 a.m. Gatti's buffet. It also bodes well for Baylor opponents capable of throwing the ball, as departing DTs Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson were the Bears' top two pass-rushers, accounting for 8.5 of the team's 19 total sacks.
Overall, there's no reason to expect that the 2012 Baylor defense will be any better than the tomato can the Bears trotted onto the field in 2011. Given the losses in the middle, I expect the Baylor D to take a significant step back in both phases.
On special teams, Baylor will most likely field a punter, place kicker, and kick return and coverage units. These duties will be handled by a zany mix of walk-ons, underclassmen, and soccer players who aren't any good at soccer. Baylor's special teams will be better than some, worse than others, and almost certainly not good or bad enough to fuck up what is sure to be a perfectly mediocre season.
Remember that one night back in college when you were the superstar? (Ed. Note: For some of you, there may have been many nights like this. But BrickHorn was an electrical engineering major, so it only happened once to him.) You were at some hopping bar on 6th Street. The DJ was playing bad-ass music, the girls were hot and flirty, all your bros were having a good time, and your wit was razor sharp. That was an awesome night ... until you passed out on the bar. When you woke up, the lights were on, the girls were gone, your bros had long since bailed for bigger and better things, and half of your face was covered in Jaeger Bomb & taco vomit. Probably your own.
Baylor is about to find out what that was like. The party's over, Bears. Welcome back to reality! The rest of the conference is happy to see you friendless, witless, and half covered in vomit yet again.
I'm going to predict 7-5 for the Bears, but don't be shocked if they finish with a record anywhere between 0-12 and 14-0. To be honest, I didn't bother to review their schedule or roster or even verify that Baylor will field a team this season. But, assuming they do go out for football, the Baylor Bears will in all likelihood win and/or lose a number of their games.
And you can take that to the bank.