College football betting preview: Big 12

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

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The VSiN college football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 131 FBS teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.

Here are the team previews for the Big 12:

BAYLOR

Some coordinators wind up being bad head coaches, but it certainly doesn’t seem as if Dave Aranda is going to be one of those. Baylor went 2-7 in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and rebounded to go 12-2 and beat Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl in a battle of top-10 teams. The Bears were better in all facets last season, and some believe they’re the team to beat in the Big 12 this season.

Offense

The Bears had a choice to make at quarterback between Gerry Bohanon and Blake Shapen. With Bohanon now at South Florida, this is Shapen’s team, but there isn’t a ton of experience behind him. The sophomore QB completed 72.1% of his passes and had a 5-0 TD-INT ratio with Bohanon banged up late in the season. He was the better practice player and now tries to uphold the standards of an offense that averaged 6.3 yards per play last season.

It won’t be easy as Baylor lost 2,400 rushing yards from Abram Smith and Tristan Ebner, plus its top three receivers. There will be a lot of new faces for offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, who is only in his second year after coming from BYU. Baylor is low on recruiting stars at the offensive skill positions, but the line is mostly intact with four returning starters, which may give players time to get open or find holes.

As long as Baylor can win the line of scrimmage, the physical style of play can work in the Big 12. The Bears gave up only 18 sacks last season and had at least 5.4 yards per carry for the first time since 2015.

Defense

Baylor is still going to attempt to win with defense in a conference not known for that. The Bears allowed only 3.3 yards per carry and 5.2 yards per play last season. Those numbers closely mirrored the 2019 season when Baylor went 11-3. Playing defense in this conference can be a separator, and the Bears have six returning starters, along with a couple of brilliant minds in Aranda and DC Ron Roberts.

The Bears will try to find new stars on defense, too. They lost 24.5 tackles for loss from Jalen Pitre, JT Woods and Terrel Bernard, with Woods one of two players from the secondary taken in the NFL draft. Aranda and Roberts will have to get some rapid development from guys who were backups last season.

Baylor is still stacked on the defensive line, so the development of the back seven will set the ceiling for this year’s squad.

Outlook

Baylor was + 26 in sack differential (44 sacks) and + 12 in turnover margin. Those two things are unlikely to be repeated with Shapen running less at QB and so many losses on defense. Baylor draws BYU again in nonconference, and the Big 12 schedule is also more difficult with five road games during the nine-game Big 12 schedule, including trips to Oklahoma and Texas, as well as tough travel spots to Iowa State and West Virginia.

This is an outstanding coaching staff that will earn its money this season. My projections give Baylor 8.1 wins, which is in line with the 7.5 and heavy juice on the Over. Your outlook on Baylor is dependent on how much you respect Aranda and what you think of the rest of the Big 12.

PICK: Over 7.5 (-150)

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