The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 25: Baylor
Coach: Art Briles (25-25, fifth season; 59-53 overall in nine )
2011 record: 10-3 (Tied for third in Big 12 Conference)
Look back: The Bears are coming off one of their most successful seasons in school history winning a record 10 games and earning their first bowl victory in close to two decades. Quarterback Robert Griffin III had one of the most exciting seasons a college football player can have. He had close to 5,000 total yards of offense while adding 47 total touchdowns for Baylor. His performance earned him the Heisman Trophy and the No. 2 overall spot in this year’s NFL Draft.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 5/6
Defensive starters lost/returning: 3/8
Top returnees: RB Jarred Salubi, WR Terrance Williams, DE Terrance Lloyd, S Sam Holl, S Mike Hicks
Strengths: It’s hard not to point out the fact that the offense has taken a major hit with the losses of Griffin, Wright and Ganaway. The trio combined for more than 8,000 total yards of offense and 82 total touchdowns. Finding that sort of production won’t be easy. Nick Florence will step up to replace Griffin at quarterback. The senior isn’t without experience, having stepped in to replace an injured Griffin in 2009 and has thrown for close to 2,000 yards in his collegiate career. … Kendall Wright was one of the top receivers in the country last season but the Bears return several key players to fill his role especially with Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese. Williams had 59 catches for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns while Reese led the team with 17.2 yards per catch. … The secondary returns everybody and features some much-needed experience thanks in part to injuries last season.
Weaknesses: The rushing game will suffer a huge drop-off with the loss of Terrance Ganaway, who rushed for 1,547 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Senior Jarred Salubi will share the workload with Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk. Salubi was Ganaway’s backup last season and rushed for 331 yards and three touchdowns. Seastrunk is a transfer from Oregon and should provide a much-needed change of pace in the backfield. … While the offense soared, the defense struggled at times, giving up 37 points per game. The team loses its leading tackler from last season – linebacker Elliot Coffey – and needs to replace several key spots on the line and in the middle.
Outlook: Last season, Baylor put all the pieces together and surprised a lot of teams. That won’t happen again this season. There is now way around it, Robert Griffin III will be missed but Briles has done an amazing job turning this program around in a short period of time. The schedule features tough tests on the road against West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma. Another 10-win season isn’t likely but don’t expect the program to fall behind.
Sept. 1 SMU
Sept. 15 Sam Houston State
Sept. 22 at Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 29 at West Virginia
Oct. 13 TCU
Oct. 20 at Texas
Oct. 27 at Iowa State