2022 Baylor Bears Preview

by Matt Fargo

Baylor Bears

2021-22 Season Record 12-2 (7-2 Big 12) - 10-4-0 ATS - 6-8-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 6
Defense - 6

Overview

It has been a roller coaster of late for Baylor as after seven straight winning seasons, including four years of double-digit victories, the Bears have won 1, 7, 11, 2 and 12 games the last five seasons. The 12 wins last season were the most in program history which included a Big 12 Championship and a Sugar Bowl win over Mississippi. Additionally, their No. 5 finish in the final AP Poll was the highest ever. They had 17 starters back last season including 10 on defense that showed huge improvements but it will be a challenge to replicate that in 2022. In their favor however is that the Big 12 is in kind of a down year with the typical big guns going through some issues and head coach Dave Aranda showed what he can do in what was a loaded conference in 2021. 12 wins again are a stretch, and even double-digit victories will be too much to ask but Baylor is still a tough out.

Offense

The Baylor offense improved immensely from the previous season, averaging 111 more ypg while putting up nine more ppg, and it was perfectly balanced by averaging over 200 yards in both rushing and passing. The problem is that the top playmakers are all gone and while the Bears are not starting from scratch, they will need players to step up. Quarterback Blake Shapen has already won the starting job after playing well in a reserve role last season, completing 72 percent of his passes and throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions. Unfortunately, he lost three receivers that combined for 1,862 yards but Gavin Holmes is back after missing last season with an injury. Leading rusher Abram Smith and backup Trestan Ebner and their 2,192 yards are also gone but there is some experience coming back that will be running behind a great offensive line that should excel again.

Defense

There are a lot of holes to fill on the defense which finished No. 7 in the country in takeaways with 28. This included 19 interceptions, which was fourth most in the nation, but three starters in the secondary have to be replaced so we should see a regression with the turnovers gained. The pass happy Big 12 opponents could have even better success as Baylor allowed 227.5 ypg through the air last season which was No. 65 overall. It will be up to the front seven to cause havoc and that is something they are very capable of led by nose tackle Siaki Ika and edge rusher Gabe Hall to anchor the defensive line. Add in linebacker Dillon Doyle, who was second on the team in tackles with 89, and there is plenty to work around to keep the unit relevant and keep the defensive rushing averages strong again. Of the 41 sacks last season, players with 26 of those are back.

2022 Season Outlook

Expectations are high in Waco after the magical season a year ago and while things will be good, we should not expect great. Baylor opens the season with games against cupcakes Albany and Texas St. sandwiched around a tough game at BYU so a 2-1 non-conference record is likely. Then it gets tough as the conference schedule is not in their favor as five of the nine games are on the road and none are going to be cakewalks. The five games are against teams that were a combined 23-9 at home including games at Oklahoma and Texas late in the season which is not good timing as those two could have their acts together come November. One of the four home games is against a tough Oklahoma St. team. The O/U win total is at 7.5 so linesmakers are not seeing anything close to replicate last season and unless there is a big road upset, the under is looking like the play. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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