Baylor enters the final month of the season on the verge of a special year. The Bears won 18 games from 2011-12, but coach Art Briles has positioned this team for a run at the national championship.
Baylor has rolled to a 7-0 start, winning five games by 40 points or more. The offense has led the way, averaging 63.9 points and 717.3 yards per game.
But the defense has made improvement under coordinator Phil Bennett, which could hold the key to winning a Big 12 title.
Although Baylor is off to a 7-0 start, the schedule is about to get tougher. The Bears host Oklahoma on Thursday night, followed by a neutral site game against Texas Tech. Baylor will spend its next two games on the road, including a trip to Oklahoma State on Nov. 23. The Bears also close with Texas, which could be a defacto Big 12 title game.
Will Baylor Finish the 2013 Regular Season Unbeaten?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
While some of the conference title races are starting to wind down, the Big 12 is about to heat up. Baylor has to be considered the favorite to win the Big 12, but Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas – yes Texas – still have a chance to win the conference title. The Bears’ offense is simply lethal and the numbers are staggering through seven games. Baylor leads the nation with an average of 718.4 yards per game, averages 9.1 yards per play and ranks first nationally in passing and scoring offense. The defense has been overlooked, but this unit has made strides after allowing six opponents to score at least 40 points in 2012. The schedule hasn’t been overwhelmingly taxing, but Baylor leads the Big 12 in conference-only games by holding opponents to 330.3 yards per game. The Bears are one of only two teams in the Big 12 allowing less than five yards per play. Although Baylor’s offense is among the nation’s best, and the defense is making progress, I think the Bears will stumble once. Oklahoma State is the game that stands out on the schedule, especially since the Cowboys have started to find their rushing attack over the last few weeks. Baylor’s smallest margin of victory came at Kansas State – 35 to 25 – as the Wildcats rushed for 327 yards in that matchup. If Oklahoma State’s offense matches its performances from Iowa State and Texas Tech against Baylor, the Cowboys could end the Bears’ perfect record. While I think Baylor stumbles once, the Bears are still my pick to win the Big 12 title.
Can the Bears run the table in the Big 12? Put me in the "it's possible, but not likely" camp. Yes, Baylor has been pretty much unstoppable on offense, currently leading the nation in total yards, points and passing, and only one game has been decided by fewer than 31 points. However, the Bears also have taken advantage of a fairly easy schedule. Of the six FBS teams Baylor has defeated, only two of them have a winning record and those two are mid-majors Buffalo (6-2) and Louisiana-Monroe (5-4). The four Big 12 teams the Bears have destroyed - Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and West Virginia - are a combined 11-22 overall and 4-17 in conference play. Needless to say, Baylor has done an excellent job of beating up the bottom of the Big 12. Now it's time to see how it matches up against the upper tier, starting with Thursday's home date with Oklahoma. If anything, we should find out in this game which defense is more legitimate in terms of its national ranking - No. 10 Oklahoma or No. 11 Baylor. Even if the Bears beat the Sooners there are still four tough games left to close out their conference slate. So one thing's for certain, should Art Briles' bunch finish the regular season undefeated, these Bears will have earned that automatic BCS bid.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
All of Baylor's work is still ahead of it and the run at a Big 12 title and unbeaten season begins Thursday night with a visit from Oklahoma. The Bears will be on their toes, rested and focused against a team that it has only beaten once in school history — the last time the Sooners came to town in 2011. Art Briles' bunch will top Oklahoma and then Texas Tech the following week at home, but will slip up once in the final three weeks. A trip to Stillwater is looking tougher and tougher as Oklahoma State continues to improve and a visit from the Longhorns in the season finale could be a de facto Big 12 championship game. Baylor is a really, really good team, but Briles knows all too well that strange things happen to unbeaten teams in November — in particular, on the road. An 11-1 season could still give Baylor its first Big 12 title and first BCS bowl bid but would knock them out of the national championship race. I think Bears fans would take that to the bank.
Coach Fisher DeBerry, former head coach of Air Force and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
Baylor has played well but they have only played one tough game. Against Kansas State they scored only 35 points, which is about half the amount of the points they have been averaging in all their other games. The meat of their schedule starts with their next game on Thursday night against Oklahoma. I don't think they will be able to stay undefeated with all the tougher teams left on their schedule from the Big 12. Baylor could easily lose two games out of the next five games left on their schedule.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Baylor has done great things this season and may be the top team in the Big 12, but I’d expect the Bears to drop a game in the final five games. The question is where. Baylor’s offense has proven it can score even 35 points on a bad day. No offense in the league, except maybe Texas Tech, can really match that. My bigger question is the defense. Baylor’s numbers are impressive, but the Bears have played only one team ranked higher than 77th nationally in total offense. And that team was Kansas State, a team that didn’t start to round into form offensively until recent weeks. Meanwhile, we’re seeing teams like Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas start to find a groove on offense. While it would be fun to see Baylor go undefeated and contend for a national title, I’d expect the Bears to get tripped up somewhere. Still, winning the Big 12 and going to the Fiesta Bowl would be a banner season for Art Briles and the Bears.