CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 9 Baylor

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2013 record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 in Big 12 (1st in conference)
2013 postseason: Fiesta Bowl vs. UCF (52-42 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 13/No. 13
Head coach: Art Briles (78-60 overall; 44-32 in six years at Baylor)
Offensive coordinator: Philip Montgomery (6th season at Baylor)
2013 offensive rankings: 13th rushing offense (259.7 ypg); 5th passing offense (359.1 ypg); 1st total offense (618.8 ypg); 1st scoring offense (52.4 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: six
Defensive coordinator: Phil Bennett (3rd season at Baylor)
2013 defensive rankings: 38th rushing defense (145.4 ypg); 34th passing defense (214.9 ypg);  28th total defense (360.3 ypg); 36th scoring defense (23.5 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: four
Location: Waco, Texas
Stadium: McLane Stadium (45,000; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2013

THE GOOD
The Baylor Bears are the Lamborghini of college football offenses. Last season, the Bears’ offense was ranked No. 1 overall and averaged 618.8 yards per game. To put that number in perspective, the Oregon Ducks finished 2nd overall in total offense and they averaged 53.8 less yards per contest. That is truly an astonishing number. It’s possible the Bears’ offense will be better in 2014. Quarterback Bryce Petty enters his second year as a starter. Five of the team’s top six receivers also return. Three offensive linemen are back, with a near 400-pound monster replacing one of the departing starters. And running back Shock Linwood was nearly as good as Lache Seastrunk when given the opportunity to carry the load. In the two games Linwood carried the ball more than 20 times, he rushed for at least 182 yards. To top it all off, the Bears added a pair of four-star recruits at wide receiver with K.D. Cannon and Davion Hall. The Bears’ offense is simply a well-oiled machine that will be nearly impossible to slow down this season.

THE BAD
When a team’s offense throws the ball all over the yard while operating at a breakneck pace, opponents will try to keep pace. Baylor took a big step in the right direction on defense last season, but the lasting impression of that unit will be sacrificing 556 yards to the UCF Knights during a 52-42 loss in the Fiesta Bowl. Each time Baylor made a comeback, the defense let them down. And the team now has to replace all but two starters from that game, four of which are currently on NFL rosters. Maybe a complete overhaul was needed. But there is always something to say about continuity within one unit of a football team. Baylor isn’t starting from scratch. They’re talented up front with both starting defensive tackles back for another season and the enigma known as Shawn Oakman at defensive end. Two key players, middle linebacker Bryce Hager and defensive end Jamal Palmer, will be asked to assume leadership roles as the rest of the defense continues to grow and improve around them.

THE UNKNOWN
With strength of schedule once again being an emphasis for determining the top teams in college football, the Bears fall short. Baylor suffers from a weak non-conference schedule. The Buffalo Bulls, which finished 8-5 and second in the MAC East last year, is the best non-conference opponent on the Bears’ schedule. Even when the Big 12 conference schedule is factored into the equation, the Bears only face two teams ranked in the preseason polls. A single loss could spell doom for the Bears. An undefeated run through conference play may be Baylor’s only chance to be named one of college football’s final four in the first College Football Playoff. Would that even be enough for the committee to vote the Bears into the tournament over a one-loss SEC or Pac-12 team?

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Oklahoma
Baylor is still the new kid on the block with the shiny new toys. Whereas Oklahoma remains the Big 12’s neighborhood bully. As the two teams enter the season, the Sooners are considered national title contenders, while the Bears are still scratching and clawing to prove they can be an elite program over the long haul. This particular game is crucial for Baylor. The Bears have beaten the Sooners two of the last three years. The Sooners, however, enter the season as the favorites to win the Big 12 and ranked in the Top 5 of both the AP and Coaches’ Polls. A victory in Norman will clearly establish Baylor as the team to beat in the Big 12 this year and moving forward.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: QB Bryce Petty
The thought of Baylor ever truly replacing quarterback Robert Griffin III was unimaginable. Yet, Petty quickly escaped RG3’s shadow and continues to build a legacy of his own. When RG3 won the Heisman Trophy in 2011, he threw for 4,293 yards, 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. In 2013, Petty’s numbers were quite similar. The current Baylor quarterback passed for 4,200 yards, 32 and a microscopic three interceptions. While RG3 had decided advantages in overall accuracy and rushing yardage, Petty led Baylor to a better overall record (11-2) and a higher average per completion (16.8 yards). Due to the success of these two quarterbacks, Baylor is now considered a national contender. And in Briles’ explosive offense, the Bears’ starting quarterback has a chance to be in the Heisman conversation.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Buffalo again extends Lance Leipold’s contract

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For the Buffalo Bulls football program, it’s lather, rinse, repeat on the contractual front.

In February of 2019, Buffalo announced a new five-year contract for Lance Leipold.  A year and a couple of weeks later, the Bulls have announced that Leipold has agreed to a new five-year contract.

Leipold is now signed through the 2024 season.

“I’d like to first thank President Satish Tripathi and Mark Alnutt for this extension for our staff,” the Buffalo Bulls football head coach said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate the continued support of our administration in our pursuit of MAC championships and bowl appearances.”

Leipold just completed his fifth season with the Bulls.

In 2019, Buffalo claimed the program’s first-ever bowl win.  The Bulls also set a program record with 10 wins the year before, breaking the old mark of eight set twice (2008, 2013).  Some of the luster was taken off that historic campaign, though, as Buffalo suffered a come-from-ahead loss to Northern Illinois in the conference championship game and then coughed up four fumbles in a Dollar General Bowl loss to Troy.

Buffalo has won 24 games over the last three seasons, the second-most of any school in the Mid-American Conference over the same time and the most wins over a three-year span in school history.

“I’m very appreciative of Lance Leipold’s unwavering commitment and dedication to building a championship-caliber football program here at UB,” Alnutt said. “This program has seen outstanding growth and success both on and off the field during his tenure. I’m excited to work with Lance and his staff as we continue this positive trajectory for many years to come.”

Contractual details of the extension have not yet been revealed.  In 2019, Leipold’s $615,000 in guaranteed compensation was fifth among the 12 MAC coaches listed in the USA Today coaches salary database.

The announcement of the contract extension comes two days before the Buffalo Bulls football team kicks off its sixth spring practice under Leipold.

Ex-Rice football player pleads guilty in death of former teammate Blain Padgett

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A former Rice football player has acknowledged his role in the death of an ex-teammate.

In early March of 2018, Rice football player Blain Padgett was found dead in his apartment after he failed to show for a football workout and a wellness check was performed. In late June, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the 21-year-old defensive end’s death was caused by the toxic effects of carfentanil, which was described as being designed originally as an elephant tranquilizer.

Seven months later, former Owls defensive lineman Stuart Mouchantaf was charged with manufacturing or delivery of a controlled substance in connection to Padgett’s death.  Authorities allege that it was Mouchantaf who sold Padgett the pills that directly led to his death.  That charge was a second-degree felony that carries a penalty ranging from five years to 99 years or life in prison.

Thursday, however, Mouchantaf pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute causing death and possession with the intent to distribute causing death.  Mouchantaf will be sentenced May 14.  He is facing 20 years-to-life and a fine of up to $1 million.

The 27-year-old Mouchantaf was a defensive tackle at Rice from 2012-15 after beginning his collegiate career at Blinn College.

In 2016, the 6-5, 250-pound Padgett was second on the team in tackles for loss with 5½ and led all Owls defensive linemen with 41 tackles.  He played in just three games in 2017 before going down with a shoulder injury. He also played in eight games as a true freshman in 2015, Mouchantaf’s last season with the Owls.

“You’ve got to remember he played football with Blain for one year, so we saw him on the football field,” Wyndi Marsh-Padgett, Blain’s mother, told the Houston Chronicle. “It’d be different if we didn’t know him at all. It’s hard to see him and think about. He has family. …

“We just miss [Blain] terribly. Miss him every day.”

Four-star 2020 recruit and Florida commit Marc Britt flips to Ole Miss

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Just a couple of months into his tenure as the Ole Miss football head coach, Lane Kiffin is already leaving his recruiting mark.

In November of last year, Marc Britt committed to play his college football at Florida.  The Early Signing Period came and went without the four-star 2020 prospect signing with the Gators.  On National Signing Day earlier this month, Britt didn’t put his Herbie Hancock on a National Letter of Intent with UF either.

A little over two weeks later, at a signing ceremony at his Miami high school, though, Britt confirmed that he had flipped his commitment to Ole Miss football.

Ole Miss football has not yet confirmed Britt’s signing.  Kiffin, though, has been retweeting reports of Britt’s flip on his personal Twitter account as well as the recruit’s own tweets.

Britt is a four-star 2020 recruit.  Coming out of high school in Miami, he’s rated as the No. 44 player regardless of position in the state of Florida.  247Sports.com’s composite has him listed as the No. 9 athlete in the country. Only two signees in the Rebels’ class this year are rated higher than Britt.

At this point, it’s unclear whether Britt will start his collegiate career as a wide receiver or a defensive back.

Ole Miss football currently has the No. 34 recruiting class in the country.  That would also be 12th in the 14-team SEC.

Re-Buff’d? Eric Bieniemy reportedly pulls name from Colorado search

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We don’t know yet who will be the next Colorado football head coach.  We do know (again), though, who it won’t be.

When Mel Tucker left for the Michigan State head job earlier this month, it triggered an unexpected coaching search at Colorado.  Current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator and former Colorado football Eric Bieniemy was immediately considered the front-runner, although speculation of late had him staying in the NFL.

Overnight, Mike Klis of the NBC affiliate in Denver reported that Bieniemy “notified his alma mater Wednesday night he would no longer seek the job.” ESPN‘s Adam Schefter subsequently confirmed that Bieniemy has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Klis wrote that, “[a]lthough Bieniemy never formally interviewed for the CU head job, he and school officials stayed in contact either personally or through his agent, even while he and his family kept a long-scheduled, 5-day vacation.”

The 50-year-old Bieniemy was a running back with the Buffaloes in the late eighties, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior season.  He began his coaching career at his alma mater as running backs coach in 2001-02.  He returned to Colorado football in 2011-12 as offensive coordinator.

Since 2013, Bieniemy has been a member of the Chiefs coaching staff.

So, to where does Colorado football now turn?  Air Force’s Troy Calhoun has seemingly taken the front-runner mantle in some corners — he interviewed for the CU job this week — while former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is in the mix as well.  Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian also interviewed for the job this week.  Like Bieniemy, the former USC and Washington head coach has opted to remain in his current job.

Since being rebuffed by both Sarkisian and Bieniemy, it’s believed that Colorado has decided to expand its search for the next head football coach.  That, of course, would mean the search could drag on into next week.