Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk returns to lead the Bears' offense. (Tim Heitman, US-Presswire.)
Today at No. 24: Baylor
Coach: Art Briles (33-30 entering sixth season; 67-58 overall)
2012 record: 8-5 (4-5 in Big 12, tied for fifth in Big 12)
Look back: Art Briles' 33-30 overall record at Baylor does not really tell the story of the impressive program he has built in Waco, Texas. After coaching Robert Griffin III to a Heisman Trophy win, Briles helped his team avoid a huge letdown following the departure of the star playmaker. Baylor is coming off three consecutive winning seasons, including a 7-6 record in 2010, 10-3 record in 2011 and 8-5 record in 2012. Before earning a bowl bid in 2010, the Bears had not played in the postseason since 1994. They have since made three consecutive bowl appearances, winning the past two games.
Offensive starters returning: 5
Offensive starters lost: 6
Defensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters lost: 4
Key losses: QB Nick Florence, WR Terrance Williams, DB Chance Casey, DB Mike Hicks, DE Gary Mason, OL Ivory Wade, OL Cameron Kaufhold
Top returnees: RB Lache Seastrunk, RB Glasco Martin, QB Bryce Petty, WR Tevin Reese, K Aaron Jones, LB Bryce Hager, LB Eddie Lackey, DB Ahmad Dixon, LB Sam Holl
Strengths: RB Lache Seastrunk got a lot of national attention when he said he would win the 2013 Heisman Trophy. Seastrunk rushed for 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns on 131 carries and likely will have a higher profile role in Baylor's offense next season following the departure of starting QB Nick Florence. He averaged 138.5 yards per game in the final six contests of the season and is talented athlete, but the biggest hindrance to his Heisman campaign may be his own teammates. Baylor has a few other strong rushing options who could chip away at the eye-popping numbers Seastrunk would need to post to be a true Heisman candidate.
On the defensive side of the ball, Baylor has a strong lineup of linebackers in Bryce Hager, Eddie Lackey and Sam Holl. It could be one of the strongest linebacker groups of Briles' tenure.
Weaknesses: While the linebackers are a good group, Baylor needs to show major improvement on defense. The team ranked No. 119 out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams the NCAA ranked last season, giving up 502.2 yards per game. The team allowed 37.2 points per game.
The team also has to replace Florence. While Briles has a history of quickly molding new starting quarterbacks into superstars, it's never a sure thing when a newcomer takes over running the offense.
Outlook: Briles has flourished in Waco, but the Bears have the potential for even greater success. Baylor has to improve on defense to go from being a team that threatens to upset Big 12 title contenders to becoming a true Big 12 title contender.
Sept. 7 Buffalo