Are you ready for some college football?
Thanks to a relaxation in COVID restrictions, and almost every college football team streaming practices and spring games I was able to see the weeks of college football we all missed in 2020. Based upon what I have been watching, let me tell you how I think our Big 12 and SEC Texas Teams will do this year. Even though not many people like them, I’ll even take a crack at the Bayou Kittens, LSU.
First, let’s talk about 2021 Baylor Bears Football. It’s fairly easy to say the Bears will improve on their 2 and 7 record last year. The question is “how much”? The Bears lost Charlie Brewer (transfer to Utah), and really don’t have any experience at quarterback. Either Gerry Bohanon or Jacob Zeno will have to fill Brewer’s shoes. Which one will do that is still a big question mark.
At running back, it looks like Trestan Ebner, Sr. will start. He can catch the ball but up to now his run production isn’t impressive. He has good size and strength, a real “every down back”, which is going to be important in Baylor’s adjustment away from throwing on any down. They do have a good back up with Craig Williams, and with an improved offensive line I think the run game will be more of a strength than liability (last year the Bears had an average of less than 100 rushing yards per game). It’s “an improved offensive line” due to returning 4 starters and adding Grant Miller (transfer from Vanderbilt) and Jacob Gall (transfer from Buffalo).
Baylor’s receiving corps is pretty much the same from last year. Hopefully, they can hold onto the ball a little better and actually understand their part in the offense with spring and fall practices under their belt. They looked a lot better in the spring and with Baylor’s two starting tight-ends being one of the better tandems in the Big 12, I anticipate improved consistency and performance.
On Defense the Bears look good. They return 10 starters from a group that only gave up less than 390 yards per game last year. The statistics show the Bears giving up even fewer yards to opposing teams this year. This is the strength of the team, which isn’t very surprising since that’s Coach Aranda’s focus.
Last year Baylor lost a lot of close games, this was with the offense not being very productive (Baylor allowed less than 390 yards per game but only got right around 300 yards of offense). That won’t happen this year, the offense will be better by about 70 to 100 yards per game (even with an unknown quarterback), and the defense will allow even fewer yards. Baylor should start out with 4 wins (against Texas State, Texas Southern, Kansas, and a much overrated Iowa State). They will lose at Oklahoma St., while beating West Virginia and BYU. Then I see the Bears losing 4 in a row to Texas, TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas State. The Kansas State game could go differently, but preseason it looks like a K-State win. The Bears will finish out the season with a home win against Texas Tech, winding up 7 and 5, and going bowling.
Next up are the Texas Tech Red Raiders. I have been down on the Red Raiders for a while, but this year there is light at the end of the tunnel. Texas Tech won’t have a losing season in 2021.
With Oregon transfer Tyler Shough at quarterback Tech’s passing yards per game should increase. How much depends on the receivers not the quarterback. This is doubly true considering the back-up (Henry Colombi) followed Coach Wells from Utah State and knows the offense inside and out. Shoot, he may be the starter.
At running back the Red Raiders really don’t have that one home run player. BUT their group of backs is probably the deepest in the league, with me ranking them in the Big 12’s top 3 running back units. Passing will be the focus, but if they have to run, they can.
Tech’s receivers are big and fast, and with the addition of Kaylon Geiger (transfer from Troy), one of them is going to have over 1000 yards by the end of the year. The deciding factor in my mind will be how physical the officials allow the defenders to be. They shouldn’t be stopped one on one unless a little “cheatin” goes on, and you can’t double team them all.
The real question mark on the offensive side of the ball is the line. Their best lineman from last year is gone (Jack Anderson, a good player and real leader), but add TJ Storment (an all Big 12 player from TCU). Let’s see how they gel during fall practices, but I think they should be ok.
That takes us to the defense. Up front I really don’t have anything good to say about this unit. Maybe Tony Bradford plays better, that contributions from junior college transfers will be better than what they look, and a true freshmen will be a home run, but it’s a real longshot for all of these things to “click”. I just don’t see it. So, it’s a really good thing that the Red Raiders are stacked at linebacker. These guys are some of the best tacklers for Tech, and, based on last year’s statistics, some of the best tacklers in the Big 12.
In the secondary the Red Raiders have basically hit the free agency market, trying to construct a unit from transfer players (my last count was 4). Talent wise they look a lot better, but team play and consistency is a big question. None of these players have been coached together or played together. Each one of them will probably be starting. I see improvement but not a great deal of improvement.
With a much improved offense from last year, and a similar defense, I predict the Red Raiders will start the season with 3 wins (against Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and FIU), lose to Texas, West Virginia (only because it’s W. Virginia at home), and TCU (in a close one). Tech will stomp Kansas, lose because of defense to Kansas St., lose to Oklahoma, upset Oklahoma St. and Iowa St. (remember, the Cyclones are overrated), and lose to Baylor in the finale when their offense is shut down by the Baylor D. Texas Tech will finish 6 and 6 with bowl eligibility.
Moving on to the 2021 Fightin TCU Horned Frogs, their fans should expect a good year. Helping the team out on the offensive side of the ball are several things. TCU enters this season with a good coach, a good quarterback, decent running backs, and a good offensive line. TCU averaged over 5 yards per rushing attempt last year, the only possible issue this year is the Horned Frogs lost their number one running back (Darwin Barlow, but quarterback Duggen was the #1 rusher). This shouldn’t affect them too much because the O-line added talent and should be just as good if not better. TCU’s passing left a little to be desired but Duggen’s accuracy should only improve.
At receiver, Coach Patterson is probably going to start a defensive back that transferred from LSU (Marcel Brooks). Why???? Because he’s the head coach and can do whatever he wants. To be fair, Mr. Brooks is pretty fast and athletic. In fact the entire receiver group looks fast, the question is can they catch? So, I guess we will see if it’s true that “Speed Kills”. If TCU’s receivers can hold on, it will kill opposing defenses. If they can’t, it will kill TCU’s chances to win. I think they can hold on enough, under normal conditions, to win a lot.
On Defense the Horned Frogs look real good. The defensive line only lost one starter. At linebacker, Garret Wallow is gone (a Big 12 1st teamer), but the Horned Frogs still have five really good players returning at this position. In the secondary, TCU returns everyone from a very good group of cornerbacks last year, BUT, they have to replace both starting safeties. Let’s see how good their position coach is. I think given TCU’s historically well coached defense and the addition of a Memphis transfer, they should be ok.
The Horned Frogs will begin the season with 5 straight wins (against Duquesne, Cal, SMU, Texas and Texas Tech). Next, they will lose to Oklahoma, I’d really like them to win, but with the questions I have at receiver, I don’t see it happening. TCU will beat West Virginia, lose to Kansas State in Kansas, beat Baylor, lose to Oklahoma State, stomp Kansas, and then in a game I think is a real toss-up (due to the weather conditions in Ames), lose by a field goal or less to Iowa State. TCU will finish 8 and 4 with dreams of a New Year’s bowl game.