Baylor's Lache Seastrunk rushed for 1,012 yards last season, including 185 in an upset of Kansas State.
Baylor's Lache Seastrunk rushed for 1,012 yards last season, including 185 in an upset of Kansas State.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Baylor's 2013 schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 31vs. Wofford
Sept. 7vs. Buffalo
Sept. 21vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Oct. 5vs. West Virginia
Oct. 12at Kansas State
Oct. 19vs. Iowa State
Oct. 26at Kansas
Nov. 7vs. Oklahoma
Nov. 16vs. Texas Tech (Arlington)
Nov. 23at Oklahoma State
Nov. 30at TCU
Dec. 7vs. Texas
Top 25 Previews
1
Alabama
By Lars Anderson
 
2
Stanford
By Stewart Mandel
 
3
Texas A&M
By Stewart Mandel
 
4
Ohio State
By Stewart Mandel
 
5
Oregon
By Gabriel Baumgaertner
 
6
South Carolina
By Thayer Evans
 
7
Louisville
By Zac Ellis
 
8
Notre Dame
By Lars Anderson
 
9
Florida
By Andy Staples
 
10
Clemson
By Zac Ellis
 
11
Texas
By Stewart Mandel
 
12
Georgia
By Lars Anderson
 
13
Florida State
By Andy Staples
 
14
LSU
By Lars Anderson
 
15
Michigan State
By Ben Glicksman
 
16
TCU
By Dan Greene
 
17
Baylor
By Elizabeth McGarr McCue
 
18
Michigan
By Ted Keith
 
19
Oklahoma
By Richard Deitsch
 
20
Boise State
By Lars Anderson
 
21
UCLA
By R.J. Rico
 
22
Northwestern
By Gabriel Baumgaertner
 
23
Vanderbilt
By Zac Ellis
 
24
Northern Illinois
By Martin Rickman
 
25
Virginia Tech
By Zac Ellis
 

Can Alabama make a run at a third straight national title? Can Ohio State replicate last year's 12-0 campaign? Can Oregon maintain its standard of success under new leadership? With the college football season approaching, Sports Illustrated unveils its preseason Top 25.

For more college football preview content, check out SI's 2013 schedule guide, four teams that can beat Alabama package, preseason All-America Team, media roundtable and much more.

The case for

After Robert Griffin III took the Bears to their first and second bowl games since 1994, Nick Florence surprised fans by getting the team to a third straight bowl and setting a school single-season passing record (4,309 yards). Now the job of keeping that bowl streak alive belongs to a junior who has thrown just 14 passes. Fortunately for Bryce Petty, Baylor's offense is loaded. Senior guard Cyril Richardson, a second-team All-America, will help protect his blind side, while junior Lache Seastrunk -- who rushed for 1,012 yards last year after transferring from Oregon -- and senior Glasco Martin (889) form one of the most productive backfields in the country. Seastrunk said in December that he'll be gunning for the 2013 Heisman Trophy, and coach Art Briles calls him "an RGIII-caliber, game-changing type of player."

Defensively, Baylor averaged 2.6 takeaways over the last five Big 12 games, held UCLA to 33 rushing yards in a 49-26 Holiday Bowl victory and has seven players with at least 13 games of starting experience, plus junior linebacker Bryce Hager, who led the conference with 124 tackles.

The case against

Even in an offensive league like the Big 12, a team can't dominate if it surrenders 37.2 points per game, as Baylor did last season -- especially with an unproven quarterback.

Schedule analysis

Baylor should be halfway to bowl eligibility for the fourth straight season by the end of September and will ease into October with a visit from West Virginia. The Bears will pay for that soft start with a daunting November, when they host Oklahoma and Texas Tech and visit Oklahoma State and at TCU before a Dec. 7 showdown with Texas.

Key stat

0: The number of home losses Baylor sustained in four games against Top 25 foes over the past two seasons. The Bears have knocked off ranked Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU squads in Waco.

Breakout player

WR Antwan Goodley: A 5-foot-10, 220-pound junior, Goodley reeled in 17 catches for 171 yards in 2012. He has the speed (he runs a 4.41 40) and playmaking ability to become a difference-maker for the Bears.

Freshman to watch

DT Andrew Billings: A four-star recruit, Billings earned all-state honors after starring on both sides of the line at nearby Waco (Texas) High. Though he amassed 132 pancake blocks as a senior, he'll serve as a defensive tackle for the Bears. "He could have gone anywhere and chose to stay here," said Briles of the 6-foot, 305-pounder. "That was an exciting moment when he declared that he was going to play at Baylor. This office that I'm quietly sitting in right now was total chaos."

X-factor

The defense: It's been four years since the Bears cracked the national top 100 in total defense, but as coordinator Phil Bennett points out, "In this league, total yardage is a joke. You go by scoring, red zone, third downs." To improve in 2013, he plans to augment Baylor's base 4-2-5 with more nickel and dime packages. Injuries plagued the secondary last year, but additional depth could finally give the offense a break.

2013 stat projections (By RotoWire.com)

QB Bryce Petty: 3,825 passing yards, 27 TDs; 337 rushing yards, 6 TDs

RB Lache Seastrunk: 1,413 rushing yards, 13 TDs; 175 receiving yards, 1 TD

WR Tevin Reese: 1,204 receiving yards, 12 TDs; 25 rushing yards

Coach speak: Art Briles

SI: What improvements do you need to see from Bryce Petty?

AB: What I'm working with him on is making sure all of his actions are tight and [made] in a real quick, structured fashion.

SI: You said, "This should be the highest-rated class we've ever had." What made it so strong?

AB: We signed -- and this is not fiction, it's fact -- the fastest guy in America who plays football, [defensive back] Kyle Fulks. He [ran] a 10.2 [100 meters] this year, and he'll run close to a 20-flat 200. We also signed the best receiver in America in Robbie Rhodes, a five-star recruit, a fast guy who can track the football. And then [6-foot, 305-pound defensive tackle] Andrew Billings is the strongest guy in America -- he just broke a 22-year-old [Texas high school] powerlifting mark.

SI: You won four straight to end last season. How important was that to gaining momentum in 2013?

AB: It was critical. Our guys are walking around here with a lot of belief in the process. There's not a lot of doubts about whether we belong or whether we can contend.

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