Kansas State Wildcats football Big 12 Baylor Dave Aranda Blake Shapen Chris Klieman Adrian Martinez Collin Klein

GET TO KNOW THE BEARS

2021 records: 12-2 (7-2)
Big 12 Standings: Second (Won Big 12 Championship Game over Oklahoma State)
Best wins: Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl (10-3, AP No. 11, FEI/SP+ No. 14), Oklahoma State (12-2, AP No. 7 FEI/SP+ No. 7), Oklahoma (11-2, AP No. 10, FEI/SP+ No. 12), BYU (10-3, AP No. 19, FEI/SP+ No. 42), Iowa State (7-6, FEI/SP+ No. 16), Kansas State (8 -5, FEI/SP+ No. 19).
Notable losses: They lost 30-28 to TCU and 24-14 in the regular season meeting versus Oklahoma State.
Head Coach: Dave Aranda. He enters his third season at Baylor and has a 14-9 record at the helm in Waco. They were the surprise of the Big 12 last year when they won the conference and the Sugar Bowl. Aranda previously enjoyed successful defensive coordinator stops at LSU, Wisconsin, Utah State and Hawaii between 2010 and 2019.

Blake Shapen (Getty)

THE NUMBERS

Baylor finished No. 5 in the final AP poll and No. 6 in the Coaches poll. They were No. 11 in the final FEI/SP+ ranking, and they also finished No. 36 on offense, No. 10 defense and No. 59 on special teams in those particular rankings.

The Bears have finished with a double-digit number of wins and Sugar Bowl wins in two of the last three seasons. Both Matt Rhule and Aranda proved that Baylor can have big-time success after Art Briles.

Their defense was the key to their season. They were No. 31 in total defense (345.9 yards per game), No. 11 in success rate allowed (37.0 percent), No. 10 in scoring defense (18.3 points per game) and No. 17 in points per drive allowed (1.63).

The run defense was really good and ranked No. 17 in rushing yardage allowed (118.4 yards per game) and No. 8 in rushing success rate allowed (35.2 percent). Opponents only ran it 46.9 percent of the time against the Bears.

Gavin Holmes

Gavin Holmes (Getty)

As a pass defense, Baylor ranked No. 65 (227.5 yards per game), No. 26 in pass efficiency defense and No. 42 in passing success rate allowed.

They finished No. 23 in third down conversions (34.3 percent), No. 65 in red zone conversions allowed (82.9 percent) and No. 13 in points per drive inside their 40 (3.04). The Bears also finished No. 16 in havoc rate (20.0 percent).

The offense ranked No. 53 in total offense (422.7 yards per game), No. 43 in success rate (45.0 percent), No. 40 in scoring offense (31.6 points per game) and No. 42 in points per drive (2.49).

Aranda’s offense ran the ball 58.7 percent of the time, were No. 10 in rushing yardage (219.3 yards per game) and No. 48 in rushing success rate (45.7 percent). The pass offense was No. 92 in yardage (203.4 yards per game), No. 37 in pass efficiency and No. 49 in passing success rate.

They were No. 48 in third down conversions (42.1 percent), No. 34 in red zone conversions (87.9 percent) and No. 55 in points per possession inside the opponents’ 40 (4.00).

The special teams were led by the No. 14 kickoff coverage unit and No. 17 punt coverage unit. Kickoff returns finished No. 38, punt returns were No. 70 and the field goal efficiency ranked No. 112.

Dillon Doyle

Dillon Doyle (Getty)

The Big 12 media picked Baylor to repeat as Big 12 Champions. However, they are only slated to be #40 in the preseason SP+, ranking #62 on offense and #21 on defense. For returning production, they rank #99; #67 on offense and #113 on defense. The lost their QB, but he was replaced late in the season by Shapen who led Baylor to the Big 12 title game win and Sugar Bowl. The top 2 backs are gone along with over 2400 rushing yards; only 12% of the total rushing yardage from 2021 is back. They also lost 4 of their top 5 receivers and only 21% of their receiving yardage is back. They do return the bulk of a really good offensive line and one of the best tight ends in the league. Defensively they lost the league’s defensive player of the year, 4 of their top 6 tacklers and another pair of All Big 12 players. They also lost 1st Team returner Trestan Ebner. Defensive coordinator Ron Roberts is back for his 3rd season and was previously the defensive coordinator at Louisiana. Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes returns for his 2nd year after a successful 3-year run as offensive coordinator at BYU.

Ben Sims

Ben Sims (Getty)

KEY RETURNS

OFFENSE

1. TE Ben Sims (6-5/258): Preseason All-Big 12 and a 2021 honorable mention All-Big 12 choice. Sims is the best returning tight end in the league and Baylor’s best returning receiver. He caught 31 passes for 361 yards and six touchdowns in 2021.

2. QB Blake Shapen (6-0/200): Shapen factored into three games a year ago. He finished for an injured Gerry Bohanon and defeated K-State. He also started and played well against Texas Tech and led Baylor to a Big 12 title over Oklahoma State. Shapen completed 72 percent of his passes for 596 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

3. RB Taye McWilliams (6-1/213): McWilliams played behind a pair of really good backs Abram Smith swear Trestan Ebner. He gained 181 yards at 10.6 yards per carry with a pair of touchdowns. He’ll be expected to fill the gap for a pair of rushers that combined for 2,400 yards last year.

4. WR Gavin Holmes (5-11/200): Holmes missed 2021 with an injury, but he has 46 catches for 410 yards and three touchdowns in the two seasons he has played in Waco. That makes him by far the most experienced receiver for 2022.

5. RB Craig Williams (5-9/168): He is another running back option for the Bears. Williams had four carries for 15 yards last year.

6. OL Connor Galvin (6-7/302): Preseason All-Big 12 and a 2021 first team All-Big 12 pick. The fifth year player has logged 37 starts on Baylor’s strong offensive line.

7. OL Jacob Gall (6-2/299): Preseason All-Big 12 and a 2021 honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. It is his second year at Baylor. He started 14 games last year at center. Gall had transferred from Buffalo where he started 13 games and played in 33. It is his sixth year of college football.

DEFENSE

1. LB Dillon Doyle (6-3/240): Preseason All-Big 12 and a 2021 honorable mention All-Big 12 choice. Doyle is the leading returner for Baylor with 89 tackles and nine tackles for loss in 2021.

2. DL Siaki Ika (6-4/358): Preseason All-Big 12 and a 2021 second team All-Big 12 pick. The Big 12’s defensive newcomer of the year anchors the Baylor defensive front. He finished with 24 tackles, six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

3. S Christian Morgan (6-1/211): Morgan had 30 tackles and broke up six passes.

4. LB Matt Jones (6-3/224): Jones was fifth in tackles with 52 and also had 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception.

5. CB Al Walcott (6-2/219): Walcott broke up five passes and had three interceptions, along with 30 tackles.

6. DL TJ Franklin (6-5/265): 2021 honorable mention All-Big 12. Franklin tallied 28 tackles, six of them for loss and four sacks.

7. DE Garmon Randolph (6-7/247): Randolph had 30 tackles, three of them for loss, two sacks and one interception.

SPECIAL TEAMS

1. K Isaiah Hankins: He made all 57 extra points, was 14 of 20 on field goals, which included 12 of 16 inside of 50 yards.

2. P Isaac Power: Power averaged 45.0 yards on 50 punts, 20 punts were 50 yards or more and 20 punts were downed inside the 20.

Siaki Ika

Siaki Ika (Getty)

KEY ADDITIONS

OFFENSE

1. QB Luke Anthony (6-1/208): He played at Louisiana Tech in 2020 and finished with 1,479 yards passing and 16 touchdowns. Anthony missed 2021 with an injury and also played at FCS Abilene Christian.

DEFENSE

1. DL Jaxon Player (6-0/299): The Tulsa transfer had 138 tackles and eight sacks over four seasons

PREDICTIONS

FAN: Kansas State wins if…

They can take advantage of a Baylor team that is tasked with replacing lots of talent.

The media have the Bears No. 1 in the Big 12, but it looks like a team likely to take a step back in 2022. They’ll still be solid and likely a bowl team, but it’s going to be tough to replace all the impact players gone from the surprise team of 2021.

Prediction: Kansas State 23, Baylor 20

DY: Kansas State wins if…

They essentially play a perfect game and have some luck that goes their way. That seems weird to say but Baylor is the best-coached team in the Big 12, it is on the road and K-State might have a target on their back.

I have the Wildcats at 8-1 at this point in the season. Not to mention, Baylor will likely be playing for a possible berth in the Big 12 Championship Game as well. The Bears will probably be a little better in the kicking game and that may be the difference.

Prediction: Baylor 23, Kansas State 20

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