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)

Oklahoma State wearing Barry Sanders era uniforms vs. Texas

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Throwback uniforms have been all the rage lately, and Oklahoma State is getting in on the fun this weekend. With their big game coming up against the Texas Longhorns, the Cowboys will be suiting up in a look inspired by the 1988 Heisman Trophy season of legendary running back Barry Sanders.

Oklahoma State is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Oklahoma State team that went 10-2 and featured Sanders on his run to the Heisman Trophy. Sanders, who won the only Heisman Trophy in Oklahoma State history, rushed for 2,850 yards and 44 touchdowns. He and members of the “War Pigs” offensive line are grand marshalls for Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade this coming weekend.

The uniform, as expected, is perfect and should absolutely be given more opportunities to be worn by Oklahoma State. The uniforms will also include a patch commemorating the anniversary of Sanders’ Heisman Trophy season.

At 1-3 in the Big 12, Oklahoma State needs to go on a big winning streak and hope for some help if the Cowboys are going to play for the Big 12 championship. The Longhorns are sitting on top of the Big 12 standings with a conference record of 4-0.

Super 16 Poll sees Buckeyes drop, Cougars and Aggies debut

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Just as they did in the AP and coaches polls this week, Ohio State fell down the ladder in this week’s Super 16 Poll from the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. The Buckeyes tumbled from No. 2 down to No. 9 after their blowout loss at Purdue, while seven teams moved up one spot at their expense. When all was sorted, however, Alabama remained the dominant team in the poll just as they have all season long.

The Crimson Tide received 50 of 51 first-place votes this week to continue their dominance in the Super 16 Poll. Only LSU managed to secure a first-place vote from the firm grasp of Alabama, but the Tigers managed to move up to just fourth. Undefeated Clemson and Notre Dame stand in the way behind Alabama.

Two new additions were made to the Super 16 poll this week. No. 14 Washington State finally cracked the top 16 after popping up in the voting a few weeks ago and slowly waiting for their chance to make a move. Their win over Oregon did just that and also dropped Oregon from the top 16 in the voting. Texas A&M, at No. 16, also mad their first debut in the top 16 this season after floating around in the voting for over a month. They fill the second vacancy that was left by NC State, who fell to the bottom of the others receiving votes category this week.

Iowa and Penn State, who meet this weekend in Happy Valley, are the first two teams out of the Super 16, so the winner of that Big Ten crossover matchup may have a shot to jump into the poll next week.

Here is this week’s Super 16 Poll.

  1. Alabama (50)
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. LSU (1)
  5. Michigan
  6. Texas
  7. Georgia
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Ohio State
  10. Florida
  11. UCF
  12. Kentucky
  13. West Virginia
  14. Washington State
  15. Washington
  16. Texas A&M

As a disclaimer, three contributors to College Football Talk are voters in the Super 16 poll: Zach Barnett, Bryan Fischer, and myself (Kevin McGuire).

TCU WR/KR KaVontae Turpin suspended following arrest for alleged assault of family member

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UPDATE 12:28 p.m.: TCU head coach Gary Patterson announced Turpin has been suspended.

One of TCU’s most electric players is facing some legal trouble at the start of the week. KaVontae Turpin was arrested Sunday for alleged assault with bodily harm of a family member according to a report Monday morning from Star-Telegram. He has been released from jail.

The details of the incident have not yet been reported or shared at this time. TCU head coach Gary Patterson has yet to make any statement about the situation at this time. Before any decision on Turpin’ status with the team is made by Patterson, t is likely he and other athletics officials will want to gather as much information about the situation as possible before making any sort of announcement, whether it is handled in-house or not.

While Patterson has not officially been on the record about this news just yet, TCU has.

“Texas Christian University is aware that one of its students was recently arrested for a reported domestic situation,” a statement from TCU’s athletic department said Monday morning. “The university takes these types of reports very seriously and is continuing to gather information to determine next steps. TCU expects its students to behave in an ethical manner, abide by campus policies and adhere to state and federal law.

“The student also may face a charge of violating the University Code of Student Conduct, the results of which are independent and separate from any legal charges.”

Turpin is TCU’s second-leading receiver with 410 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Turpin’s work on special teams has also been a bright spot for TCU this season with one punt return touchdown and one kickoff return touchdown this season.

USC QB J.T. Daniels in concussion protocol, backup Matt Fink has broken ribs, Jack Sears to the rescue?

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USC freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels has been entered into the team’s concussion protocol after getting roughed up on the road against Utah Saturday night. USC’s quarterback depth looks to be even more a concern this week as head coach Clay Helton announced backup quarterback Matt Fink broke three ribs in the same game.

Because of the injuries to the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart, the Trojans will prepare redshirt freshman Jack Sears to be the team’s starter this week.

I’m a big fan of Jack. I always have been,”  Helton said on Sunday. “If he’s given the opportunities, I think he’ll do a great job.”

Daniels has been USC’s starter all season as a true freshman. Because he has already played in seven games for the Trojans this fall, he cannot use the 2018 season as a redshirt season. Players can appear in up to four games without burning a redshirt year under a modified NCAA rule regarding redshirt eligibility. How serious the concussion issue remains to be seen, as they can be difficult to predict.

Sears did not play in 2017 and has yet to get the chance to record any passing stats this season. The former four-star dual-threat quarterback is not guaranteed to start this week, but if Daniels is not medically cleared to return, then it will be up to sears to guide the offense for however long he is needed.

USC hosts Arizona State this Saturday. Tied with Utah in the Pac-12 South, USC loses the tiebreaker for the top spot with the head-to-head loss at Utah, which means USC needs to finish the season ahead of Utah in the division in order to play for the Pac-12 championship.