Welcome to the Deadspin 25, a college football poll that strives to be more democratic and less useless than every other preseason poll. Leading up to the college football season kickoff, we will give you previews of the 25 teams that you, the readers, voted to be most worthy of writing about. Now, No. 14 Baylor.
There are scary teams, and then there is Baylor.
Baylor is the realest of deals; a no-shit top-five squad. The Bears returns 18 starters from a team that went 11-2 in 2014, and though one of the three lost starters is quarterback Bryce Petty, this year’s team may very well be even better than last year’s version.
Stepping in for Petty will be redshirt junior Seth Russell, who is a more mobile option than his mentor, and will be surrounded by nine returning starters in his first crack at guiding Baylor’s best-in-the-nation offense. Saying the team won’t be affected by losing a guy who tossed 29 touchdowns and 3,788 yards is obviously a mistake, but Russell has been around this team for four years, and with the weapons he’s going to have at his disposal, it’ll be hard for him to fuck things up.
Starting out wide will be a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Corey Coleman and K.D. Cannon, who combined for 19 receiving touchdowns last year and each averaged over 17.0 yards per catch. Having one great wide receiver is a boon for any new quarterback, but Russell has two of these motherfuckers on his team. And as if that wasn’t enough, standing in the backfield will be running back Shock Linwood, who ran for 1,252 yards, and scored 24 total touchdowns last year.
All this is done behind All-American offensive tackle and future first-round draft pick Spencer Drango. And just for fun, the Bears can mix 400-pound tight end/H-back LaQuan McGowan, who is everything you’ve ever wanted in a football player.
This team is so good, it makes me tear up thinking about them playing against TCU the day after Thanksgiving. I have have never been more ready for anything in my entire life. I am currently getting my affairs in order, because I know the Good Lord may just lift me up out of my chair if we get another 61-58 shootout for the Big 12 title.
I’ve hyped up this team already so much, and I haven’t even made it to the defense, which, in case you were wondering, is also really damn good. The unit will boast one of the best lines in college football, with end Shawn Oakman and nose tackle Andrew Billings leading the way. Billings established himself as a 300-pound force in 2014 with 37 tackles, 11.5 of them good for a loss. As for Oakman... well, we’ll get to The Man in a bit.
At linebacker, the Bears bring back freshman All-American Taylor Young, who was second on the team with 92 tackles in 2014, and Grant Campbell. In the secondary, Baylor returns junior corners Xavien Howard, who led the way with four picks last year, and Ryan Reid. The pair combined for 25 pass breakups last year.
This is Shawn Oakman. You may not realize it, or even want to accept it, but everything that happens in this world does so under his guidance. The rising of the sun, the creation of three separate Spider-Man franchises, the rising of the tides, Donald Trump’s hair, The Sopranos’ ending. All of it. It’s all Oakman.
Oakman is 6-foot-9, 280 pounds, and when he’s not busy consuming worlds for energy, he starts at defensive end and consumes quarterbacks for Baylor. In 2014, he put together 11.0 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, and this was all done in his first season as a starter in Waco.
After being dismissed from Penn State for on-campus issues stemming from a theft, Oakman joined the Bears in 2012. After sitting out a year due to transfer rules, Oakman played sparingly in 2013 before bursting onto the scene last year and terrifying every man, woman, and child who tuned in to the Cotton Bowl.
Already projected to be a first-round pick, Oakman can still use his final year in college to fine-tune some of the issues he had on the field in 2014. One of the main knocks against him was his inconsistency against top talent, as he recorded just two sacks in the four games against the ranked opponents that Baylor played. If Oakman can nail his technique on a weekly basis, Big 12 quarterbacks may just want to sit this season out.
Oh, hell yeah. This team is built for the playoff. I’d actually be insanely disappointed if Baylor doesn’t make the playoff, though if TCU sneaks in ahead of them, I won’t be surprised.
The Bears have all the returning talent a team could hope for and an easy enough schedule that should have them undefeated heading into the Nov. 27 matchup with the Horned Frogs. But if Baylor wants to beat TCU come that fateful day, Russell will have to be very good. Not better than Trevone Boykin, but at least 300-yards good. Russell’s lack of starting experience is the only thing that can hold Baylor back, but I don’t really see that being a problem given his talent and familiarity with the team.
Art Briles has one hell of a team in Waco, and his reaming of the Big 12 was justified, but he’s also presided over a program that’s spent the last year or so doing everything in its power to keep details of a sexual assault case out of the press.
Last year was TCU’s time in the sun, but 2015 is Baylor’s. The Bears have all the pieces in place, and as long as Russell does fine under center, this team is going to destroy every team not named TCU in its path.
Sept. 4: @ SMU
Sept. 12: Lamar
Sept. 26: Rice
Oct. 3: Texas Tech
Oct. 10: @ Kansas
Oct. 17: West Virginia
Oct. 24: Iowa State
Nov. 5: @ Kansas State
Nov. 14: Oklahoma
Nov. 21: @ Oklahoma State
Nov. 27: @ TCU
Dec. 5: Texas