Baylor football is booming after the program reached its first 12-win season, highlighted by a Big 12 Championship and Sugar Bowl victory. With head coach Dave Aranda entering his third year in charge, things are headed in the right direction for the Bears.
But, will green and gold replicate that same glory this fall? Not so fast.
As good as last year, Baylor’s schedule was favourable, having some of their toughest games at a friendly McLane stadium. That changes this season, as the Bears have some tough competition on the road against BYU, Oklahoma and Texas, to name a few. Baylor won’t be at the bottom of the conference standings, but let’s dampen the repeated chatter a bit.
You can’t blame the fans too much though, as even the media seem to be sold on Aranda’s squad, as they received 17 votes for first place in the pre-season poll and will start the year as favorites to repeat.
On another positive note, it’s early August and we know who will lead the offense, unlike last year’s quarterback battle that lasted until the end of August.
Sophomore slinger Blake Shapen won the job over 2021 starter Gerry Bohanon, who has since moved to UCF. Baylor fans have reason to be excited about Shapen, as his dynamic ability gives him the chance to be one of the top three Big 12 QBs. Don’t believe me? This should change your mind.
Let’s also acknowledge the fact that the Bears lost 11 guys to the NFL, including 2021 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jalen Pitre. While there’s plenty to be excited about this season, expect some growing pains before banking on similar success, Baylor fans.
Baylor Information Book
The Head Coach: Dave Aranda (third season at Baylor; 14-9 overall in two seasons as head coach)
Record 2021: 12-2 (7-2 Big 12)
Bowl result: Win against Ole Miss, 21-7, in Sugar Bowl
Offense 2021: 422.4 yards per game (203.07 passes, 219.3 carries) | 31.64ppm
defense 2021: 345.8 yards per game (227.50 passes, 118.3 carries) | 18.29ppm
Return departures (off./def.): 7/7
Big 12 Pre-Season Media Poll: 1st overall
All-Big 12 pre-season selections
Attack: TE Ben Sims
5th-year senior Ben Sims returns after being much more featured in his 2021 campaign. The 6-foot-5, 258-pound TE posted 361 yards on 31 catches (compared to 164 yards on 14 catches in 2020) and is expected to being ready for another great year, especially after showing a strong bond with Blake Shapen in the 2021 Big 12 Championship game.
OL Connor Galvin
Baylor fans should feel good knowing that the 2021 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year is back in the trenches to lead an O-line group that was among the best in the country. The Katy native will be a repeat favorite as the conference’s top offensive lineman.
OL Jacob Gall
Veteran leadership and reliability. That’s what you’ll get with sixth-year senior Jacob Gall, who started all 14 games last season at center. Expect Baylor to continue to hammer the rock effectively with Gall in the middle.
Defense: DL Siaki Ika
Siaki “Apu” Ika is a game changer. No, seriously, Apu shifts the weight of the scales onto the grill. The 6-foot-4, 358-pound nose tackle eats blocks and plugs into the middle with the best of them. His presence alone will be invaluable to the Bears defense. Also, don’t forget about its unique bagged celebrations.
LB Dillon Doyle
This one is interesting. Doyle steps into a similar, but different role. The former Iowa Hawkeye has been an elite inside linebacker, alongside 2022 Sugar Bowl MVP Terrel Bernard, since 2020. However, with Bernard’s departure, Doyle needs to step up not just production, but leadership as well. It will be interesting to see what the middle looks like with the Iowa City, Iowa native in the lead, but I expect to see some good things.
Five must-have Twitter accounts for Baylor fans:
@JohnWernerTrib and @BriceCherry – These two gentlemen from the Waco Tribune-Herald will keep you up to date. Whether it’s game day and John Werner live-tweeting notable incidents or Brice giving you his thoughts on what’s going on, you won’t regret following them.
@mattmosley – Matt Mosely is easily one of the best radios in Central Texas, and he never disappoints when it comes to keeping you entertained on his weekday show on ESPN Central Texas 1660 AM. His Twitter presence is outstanding and be sure to check out any podcasts or interviews he posts or retweets.
@SicEm365 – The content produced by the SicEm365.com team is amazing. They are fast, precise and super remarkable. Be sure to follow this team, as they provide great information for the Baylor faithful.
@OurDailyBears – From podcasts to stories, this group will keep you up to date with everything and anything about Baylor football. Trust them to tell you the hard news and add a little humor here and there.
@BULariatSports – This small team of student reporters can give you the latest news in an impressive way. Don’t underestimate what these young writers can do, as they produce content in the midst of their busy daily lives.
Best place to hook up on Saturday: If the weather is on your side, you can never go wrong “sailing” the Brazos River. My suggested save is Touchdown Alley, as there is plenty of fun for all ages. It opens three hours before the game starts and is free, although you will need food and drink. For a complete tailgating guide, click here.
Best place to grab a bite after the game: Twisted Root Burger Co. offers savory burgers and is right across the highway. For something different, Buzzard Billy’s offers solid Cajun cuisine and Clay Pot offers tasty Vietnamese cuisine.
Best gameday tradition to participate in: You don’t want to miss the Bear Walk. Three hours before the start of the game, the Bears coaches and players are trudging over the Basin Bridge through Touchdown Alley toward the stadium gates. As they walk, supporters mark their route and overwhelm coaches and athletes with words of encouragement.
Find more Baylor coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.