<
>

Schedule analysis: Baylor Bears

Matt Rhule's Bears will open Big 12 play against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP

Over the next two weeks, we’ll preview the upcoming schedules for each Big 12 team.

The series begins with Baylor:

Nonconference opponents (with 2016 record)

Sept. 2: Liberty (6-5)

Sept. 9: UT-San Antonio (6-7)

Sept. 16: at Duke (4-8)

Big 12 home games

Sept. 23: Oklahoma (11-2)

Oct. 21: West Virginia (10-3)

Oct. 28: Texas (5-7)

Nov. 11: Texas Tech (5-7)

Nov. 18: Iowa State (3-9)

Big 12 road games

Sept. 30: at Kansas State (9-4)

Oct. 13: at Oklahoma State (10-3)

Nov. 4: at Kansas (2-10)

Nov. 24: at TCU (6-7)

Gut-check time: Oklahoma rolled off 15 straight wins against Baylor as a Big 12 foe until 2010 when the Bears flipped the tables in this series and won three of four. The Sooners have regained their edge the last two years and look like a heavy favorite to extend control here, even if Baylor enters with a better record after nonconference play. OU is strong up front on defense and a good match to control the Bears’ running game. If Baylor finds a way to throw the ball downfield against Oklahoma, it’s got a shot -- though perhaps a slim one -- to open room for Terence Williams and JaMycal Hasty.

Trap game: The Week 3 trip to Duke looks like a modest challenge in a 40,000-seat stadium against a team that finished 4-8 a year ago and sixth in the ACC Coastal, losing five of six to finish. It may amount to much more in coach Matt Rhule’s first trip away from home with the Bears. Duke, after all, won 27 games during the three seasons prior to last year. The Blue Devils navigated trouble last year as QB Thomas Sirk went down with an Achilles injury. Freshman Daniel Jones stepped in to throw 16 touchdowns, and Jones returns as the starter in 2017. He may quickly solidify matters on offense.

Snoozer: Going outside the box here to pick the next game in a series that has seen 95 points scored per meeting during the last seven seasons. Set the over-under a bit lower this year at AT&T Stadium, because Texas Tech and Baylor don’t possess the same firepower offensively as in recent seasons. The Bears will rely more on a ball-control style with Rhule in charge. And Tech is going to miss its departed starpower. By Week 11, one of both of these teams’ seasons could be teetering on the brink. And their sixth meeting in Arlington since 2009 just may not carry its normal appeal.

Final analysis: Baylor’s front-loaded Big 12 schedule makes life difficult for a new coaching staff with limited experience in the league. The contrasting styles of Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia to open the conference slate, too, present a challenge in preparation that would tax any team -- let alone a group thinned by transfers and still somewhat in danger of splintering as it did last year amid mass turmoil off the field. The competition diminishes somewhat in November before a season-ending game at TCU in which bowl eligibility may be at stake for the Bears.