Baylor Release its 2016 Football Schedule
On Tuesday, Baylor and the Big 12 released the schedules for the 2016 football season. As expected, many took to twitter to ridicule the "weak" non-conference schedule that Baylor has. It's the same old argument used by those who don't believe Baylor belongs in the final 4 of the College Football Playoff.
Frankly, I have no issues with the schedule. I've always believe that maybe Baylor should find some P5 school to play, but you can't say Baylor isn't trying. Baylor had all but locked up a game against California, that would have taken place in Australia to open the 2016 season. Not only is it not happening, but Cal is now playing a weak B1G opponent in Australia.
Baylor is in talks with the SEC to get a non-conference game scheduled around the 2019 and 2020 season, and have already locked up some others for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. So you can certainly see the effort being put forth to have a better schedule.
Personally, I don't see why Baylor needs to do this. Lets look at the final rankings last year. The Bears finised the season with a win against Kansas State to sew up a second straight Big 12 Championship. At that point, Baylor needed a loss by either Ohio State or Alabama to jump in to the final 4. Many believed OSU was in trouble going into the B1G Championship game against Wisconsin, but their 3rd QB, Cardale Jones, led Ohio State to a blow out win and the B1G Championship.
The CFP committee seems to punish teams more for having 2 losses, than having a weak schedule. Baylor finished #5 and needed some help, but nothing they were hoping for was out of the ordinary.
Fast forward to this year, and the Bears are at #7, after the latest CFP rankings, and are in a great position to jump in to the final 4. The Bears will need some help as Iowa, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Michigan State are the main teams that Baylor will need to lose in the next two weeks. If 3 of these 4 teams lose, which is more likely than not, to happen, then the Bears will be in great shape if they can take care of business against TCU and Texas.
I'm not quite ready yet to make a prediction on the final two weeks of college football, but if the Bears win out, win their 3rd consecutive Big 12 Championship, and get some help, they will be in the final 4 over a 2 loss PAC 12 or B1G team.
For more coverage and discussion on Baylor's 2016 schedule, follow this LINK to the Bear Pit.
Duvernay and Dickson Round Out a Strong 2016 Offensive Recruiting Class
Last Friday, #27 ranked Devin Duvernay gave the Bears a dynamic group of WR commits for the 2016 class. With his commitment, Baylor now has the #1 and #2 ranked WR's in Texas committed, and the #3 and #5 ranked WR's in the Country.
Also, this past week, Tren'Davian Dickson became the all time leader for TD receptions in the State. Dickson also signed financial aid papers, to join QB commit Zach Smith, as two players who will report at the mid-term to Baylor to take part in spring drills.
With 8 commitments on the offensive side of the ball, Baylor is likely done on that side. There have been rumblings about a possible OL commit expected, but that hasn't been confirmed. Still, it wouldn't surprise me if Baylor was still looking to bring in another OL prospect to offset the amount of attrition that will take place after the 2015 season.
With Offensive Class All but Done, Where Does Defense Go?
Baylor is currently sitting at 9 commitments on the defensive side of the ball. The Bears have a nice collection of athleticism at the LB, CB, and S positions, but currently lack depth at the DL positions. I believe this is where the Bears will go with what looks like there last 2-3 spots.
The Bears hosted a pair of official visitors for the Oklahoma game in Levin Onwuzurike and Jordan Elliott, and an unofficial visitor in Texas A&M commit, Mark Jackson.
Currently, the Bears have commitments from Houston (TX) Hightower HS DE Micheal Johnson and Spring (TX) HS DT Bravvion Roy. These two are a strong addition to the defensive recruiting class. However, the Bears will need at least 1 DT and 1-2 DEs to close out the defensive side of the ball. Baylor will lose Jamal Palmer, Shawn Oakman, Beau Blackshear, and possibly Andrew Billings after this season, so it will be important to bring in a few more commits along the line.
With Jordan Elliott, I think the Bears will be on the outside of this one. Many believe, and Elliott has confirmed, that Michigan is his leader at this point in the recruiting process. Many also believe, at least in the Texas circles, that the Longhorns may have a leg up in this race. Either way, Elliott had an excellent time at Baylor, and sources believe the one time Baylor commit was very impressed with the plan that the defensive coaches have for him.
Levi Onwuzurike was another official visitor that had a great time at Baylor. His recruitment is a quiet one, as Onwuzurike doesn't speak much to the media, so its hard to gauge where certain teams are on his list. The Bears are within striking distance for his commitment, and with Allen still alive and well in the playoffs, the Bears will have to wait until after the season to see if they land this talented DE.
Mark Jackson was an interesting visitor to Baylor. The current and long time Texas A&M commit, was thought to not have any interest in the Bears. His presence at the Baylor/Oklahoma game shows that his interest is strong. In speaking with some sources, it does seem that there is some smoke to his interest, and that there could be the possibility of a flip before NSD. Jackson would be a huge addition to the 2016 class.
Looking at the commitments and the prospects left on the board, I believe there are 3 strong possibilities to close out the 2016 class. In my opinion, Baylor will land DE Brandon Bowen, DE Levi Onwuzurike, and an unknown prospect at DT. The Bears could land Elliott, but I just don't see that happening. Still closing the class out with those 2 and the unknown DT, who is someone that has been discussed before, will show that Baylor will continue to be a force in the Big 12.
Kellen Mond Eager to Improve This Offseason
I quickly caught up with 2017 QB commit Kellen Mond after San Antonio Raegans abrupt end to the 2015 season. While the season wasn't what he and his teammates wanted, Mond proved that he is one of the top dual threat QBs in the country, as referenced by his #3 QB ranking in the State, and #8 QB in the Country.
BI: With the season coming to an unfortunate end, against Smithson Valley, looking back what are some of the things you accomplished personally and as a team
KM:I felt like going into this season that I had put a lot of time working on my footwork & pocket presence, and I definitely I saw the results. I felt that I became more accurate as a passer because my technique improved also.
As a team, I thought we got better each and every game. We started off very slow towards the beginning of the year, but we started to focus and that's when we started executing.
BI: So heading in to the offseason what are you looking to improve on?
KM:My main focus this offseason is just getting bigger and faster. I plan on gaining 12-15 lbs so that going into my freshmen year at Baylor I could be about 210 lbs. I plan on enrolling early to Baylor, so I want to be able to compete during spring drills.
BI: Any plans to play spring sports?
KM:I haven't decided if I was running track this year. Sometimes I feel like it would be better to focus on school and sometimes I feel like it can help my football speed. I'm still debating.
BI: So switching gears to recruiting, what is your current relationship with the commits and what is yalls message to other recruits about Baylor?
KM: I think I have a great relationship with all the commits, especially Hez and Jhamon because I've known them the longest. We are really just trying to build something special, so each and every commit has some sort of relationship with recruits, so if everyone does their part, then there is no reason why this can't be a great 2017 class.
BI: With this last question, If you could predict who the next 3 commits will be, who do you think they will be?
KM: I'm not sure how long it would take for them to commit but I'm gonna say...LINK
5 Keys: TCU
1. CJ is the Man. Color me unsurprised that CJ did what he did last Saturday. I know, I know, there is no way to expect him to come in and do that, but many forgot that CJ has been a part of this offense for 3 years now. One thing I was surprised with, is the amount of poise he had. The kid played with a calm that you saw from a seasoned veteran that has done this for a long time. CJ brings such a huge element to this offense, with his scrambling/running ability, that it will be very difficult for team to scheme agains the Bears offense. Kendal Briles will need to bring the same aggressiveness he brought against OSU, and if he does that then it will be very tought for TCU and Texas to win against the Bears. CJ will likely make some mistakes, but I think those mistakes will likely be hidden by his success.
2. Injuries continuing to mount for the Bears. This week Baylor confirmed what had already been speculated, that Jarrett Stidham had a broken ankle and will be out for the rest of the season. In addition to Stidham, the Bears will likely be without RB Shock Linwood, DE Byron Bonds, and S Orion Stewart. Linwood was a little banged up in the OSU game, but he will likely be able to go against TCU. This will be huge for Baylor, as it will be very important for them to consistently run the ball in order to open up the pass. The Bears will have a key advantage against TCU, who is missing a majority of their starters from the beginning of the season.
3. Pick Up Where You Left Off. Phill Bennetts defense put forth what I believe to be its greatest defensive performance since Bennett got to Baylor. It was that good. Baylor forced 10 punts, 6 sacks, and held OSU to 8, yes EIGHT, yards rushing. With the past troubles in Stillwater, it was paramount that the defense win the LOS and keep the potent OSU offense from taking off. They did just that. The same intensity and aggressiveness will be needed against a very depleted TCU offense. Heisman contender Treyvone Boykin will likely play against the Bears, but how explosive he is remains to be seen. If the Bears can maintain from where they left off against OSU, it will be a long day for the Horned Frogs.
4. Run, Run, and Run Some More.This is the name of the game for the Baylor offense. TCU DT Aaron Curry is out against the Bears, and this is just another hit to a depleted defensive unit. Baylor will be more eperienced along the LOS, so the Bears will need to dominate. Against OSU, the Bears had over 300 yards rushing. Against OU, however, the Bears had half of that. Those two stats were the differences in those respective games. Many talk about Baylor's explosive passing game, but it will be the running game that wins this battle.
5. Will the Rain Be a Factor? The forecast for Fort Worth calls for temperatures in the low 40's and a 100% chance of rain. The last two games in the rain havne't worked out well for Baylor. The Bears got the win against ISU, but lost starter Seth Russell for the season. The Bears lost against OU on a night when it rained for about 75% of the game. The weather coupled with all of the injuries, makes this game hard to predict. I will say that Baylor does seem to be the better team, when taking all the injuries in to account.
This game will come down to who can run the ball better. With the rain coming, the passing games on both sides will be affected. Still at the end of the day, I believe the Bears will pull out this game in similar fashion to the OSU game. Baylor will have a double digit lead for most of the game, and close with a 10 point win. Baylor should have bragging rights for another 12 months after this game.
Baylor 38 TCU 28