Baylor football was ranked No. 4 in the country for the first time in school history by the Associated Press in the preseason poll.
Baylor looks to be one of the four teams selected into the College Football Playoff at the end of the regular season for a shot at its first national title. The Bears will have their work cut out for them if they plan to overcome the Big 12 and seperate themselves from the rest of the pack.
The defending champion, Ohio State Buckeyes rank as the top team in the nation according to the AP poll, receiving every single first-place vote. Here’s a quick overview of the top teams coming into this season.
Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes are equipped to repeat as national champions, returning seven starters on offense and defense, including All-American playmakers in running back Ezekiel Elliot and defensive end Joey Bosa.
With the return of the athletic Braxton Miller, who moves from the quarterback position to Meyer’s distinctive H-back position, the Buckeyes will be a dangerous squad.
“[Miller is] one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached,” Meyer said. “It’s win or lose time, he’s not the type to lose. My expectation is that he [will be] an impact player.”
Coming in second is TCU, who also returns a good deal of their starters, with 10 on offense and five on defense.
Among those 10 offensive returners is quarterback Trevone Boykin, who is a surefire candidate for the Heisman Trophy in 2015. Boykin was explosive last season, gaining over 4,600 total yards of offense by himself.
The Horned Frogs were 12-1 last year, their only loss coming to Baylor in the Bears’ thrilling 61-58 comeback victory. Head coach Gary Patterson is set to field another good team in 2015 and compete for supremacy in the Big 12.
In the third position of the poll is the Alabama Crimson Tide. One glaring issue with Alabama is at the quarterback position. Head coach Nick Saban has not yet name a starter at QB. Saban said he has no worry about his quarterback situation though.
“I have confidence in our guys that they will play well in the game,” Saban said. “How we’re going to play them in the game, I haven’t decided.”
The Crimson Tide can rest easy knowing that running back Derrick Henry will return in the backfield for 2015.
Coming in at No. 4 is the two-time defending Big 12 champion, Baylor.
Last season didn’t end on good terms for the Bears though. Michigan State pulled off a 42-41 comeback win in thrilling fashion to win the Cotton Bowl.
Missing out on the inaugural College Football Playoff as well as surrendering a 21-point lead to the aforementioned Spartans is something that is inspiring the Bears this season.
The Bears found themselves in a conundrum concerning the College Football Playoff last year. Baylor was at the center of the biggest controversy in the newly enstated four-team playoff system. Baylor lost to West Virginia, a team that TCU beat. Baylor beat TCU in a head-to-head matchup 61-58. This sparked a seemingly never-ending paradigm in the national conversation of college football.
“We’ve used last season as motivation,” head coach Art Briles said. “We knew somebody had to get fifth, we just didn’t know it’d be us.”
With Baylor returning nine starters on both offense and defense, they enter 2015 as one of the most experienced teams in the country. The Bears have outside threats in Corey Coleman and K.D. Cannon that will give defenses nightmares as well as defensive end Shawn Oakman.
While junior quarterback Seth Russell is one of the more experienced quarterbacks coming into his first season as a starter, due to frequent Baylor blowouts, pundits still wonder if he is prepared to step in and lead a powerful Baylor offense seeking a third straight conference championship.
The Spartans come in at No. 5 and will be looked to as the only team in the Big Ten conference that can legitimately compete with Ohio State.
Although former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi departs for Pittsburgh, the Spartans are notorious for great defensive play and return seven starters on defense.
Head coach Mark Dantonio believes that his receiving unit will be improve from last season as a whole.
“Our receivers continue to be a strength,” Dantonio said. “We have good players there, good players that are active down the field and can do a lot of things.”
Finishing off the top 10 are Auburn, Oregon, USC, Georgia, and Florida State.
The college football season is slated to begin this Thursday when South Carolina and North Carolina kick off at 5:00 p.m.
Baylor’s season follows the next day when the Bears take on the SMU Mustangs at 6 p.m. Friday on ESPN.