2015 season preview: Baylor Bears

If Seth Russell can continue Baylor's recent tradition of highly productive quarterbacks the Bears will be in the College Football Playoff conversation. Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Our season preview capsule for the Baylor Bears:

Most important player: Few programs in the country can match Baylor's recent run of stellar quarterback play. The Bears' past three gunslingers were all consistent, poised and versatile, and that can't be taken for granted. New starting QB Seth Russell is this team's most important player, because his ascent could make all the difference on whether Baylor gets into the College Football Playoff. There's no room for drop-off in quarterback play, and coach Art Briles doesn't expect any. Russell doesn't need to play superhero, but he does need to rise to the challenge.

Offensive breakout player: The Bears already have way too many talented wide receivers at their disposal, but they're going to find a way to use Chris Platt at some point this season. The 5-foot-11 redshirt freshman with 4.48 40 time speed was one of the stars of spring ball at inside receiver and is already evoking comparisons to speedy Baylor great Tevin Reese. If opposing secondaries are too busy worrying about Corey Coleman and K.D. Cannon, Platt will be happy to run right past them.

Defensive breakout player: Bryce Hager leaves some rather large shoes to fill at middle linebacker but Baylor coaches are confident Grant Campbell is ready to take over where the tackling machine left off. Campbell was mostly a reserve as a juco transfer last season but has caught up to the speed of the Big 12 game and will be trusted to man the middle. Hager was like an extra coach on the field, so providing leadership will be a must for his successor.

Newcomer to watch: Outside of Robert Griffin III, Baylor has mainly relied on developing solid quarterback recruits and turning them into outstanding college quarterbacks. However, Art Briles landed his biggest quarterback recruit ever in 2015 when Jarrett Stidham signed with the Bears. Stidham is an absolute perfect fit for what the Bears want out of their quarterbacks, and the early returns look great. While Baylor does have some depth at the quarterback spot, Stidham might be too talented to keep off the field as a true freshman. -- ESPN RecruitingNation’s Jeremy Crabtree

Recruiting storyline: The Bears have the top 2016 class in the Big 12 so far, and if all the top players stick with Baylor all the way to signing day, it'll be the best class the school has signed in decades. The Bears needed to load up on offensive linemen and have struck it rich with ESPN 300 offensive linemen Patrick Hudson and J.P. Urquidez. -- Crabtree

Prediction: Baylor rolls to an 8-0 start, including a confidence-building revenge win over West Virginia, but the Bears slip up once on the road during their ridiculous November schedule. That untimely loss comes in Fort Worth on Black Friday, and TCU clinches the Big 12 title thanks to the head-to-head win. Still, Baylor's 11-1 finish is good enough for the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff.