• A by-the-numbers look at what’s in store for Baylor Football this fall

    Players run onto the field at McLane Stadium

    This Saturday evening, it’s all back: touchdowns and tailgates, the Baylor Line and the Golden Wave, first downs and third downs and a sea of green and gold on the Brazos. Yes, the 2023 season is almost here, and it officially begins Saturday at 6 p.m. when the Bears kick off the new year against Texas State.

    What does 2023 have in store? That’s a story that has yet to be written, but a few numbers provide a meaningful look into areas that could impact the success of the year ahead:

    Eight: Home field advantage could really make a difference in 2023, as the 10th season at McLane features a school-record eight home games. That means that for two-thirds of the season, Baylor fans can make Bear Country a tough place to play for opposing teams — a huge advantage with a schedule that includes a top 25 non-conference opponent in Utah, a new Big 12 rival in Houston, and a final conference visit from Texas.

    Six: In the Big 12 Preseason Poll, the Bears were picked to finish sixth among the 14 schools that comprise the conference. Reading between the lines, it means voters see the Bears as a top-half team with potential to grow — which can be important in a conference where so many games are decided late (more on that in a minute).

    Four: Last year’s 6-7 finish was incredibly close to looking quite a bit different. In four of those losses, the Bears were tied or led in the fourth quarter. If a few more things had gone Baylor’s way, last year could have been a 9- or 10-win season. The ability to learn from those experiences and close out tight games could make a big difference this year.

    (QB)1: After a tight competition this spring between returning quarterback Blake Shapen and transfer Sawyer Robertson, it was the veteran Shapen who emerged as the starter. Shapen, who has grown through the highs of leading the team to a Big 12 Championship win against Oklahoma State in 2021 and the challenges borne from injuries and the ups and downs of being a starter in 2022, has reportedly added 15 pounds since last year and stepped up as a vocal leader as he prepares to build on past experiences in his second year as QB1.

    13: This year’s squad features 13 new transfers on the roster, many of whom will play leading roles on the team. Linebacker Mike Smith, who joined the Bears from Liberty, has repeatedly drawn praise as a playmaker on defense, and the Barrington brothers from BYU– Clark and Campbell — are both expected to start on the offensive line. Other names to know include running back Dominic Richardson from Oklahoma State and wide receiver Ketron Jackson from Arkansas.

    Odd Numbers: 2023 is an odd-numbered year. That really shouldn’t mean anything, but to Baylor fans, it’s hard not to smile thinking about the last couple — each of which has ended with a Big 12 championship game and a Sugar Bowl appearance.

    These numbers only begin to scratch the surface for this year’s team. They don’t even include preseason All-Big 12 selection Richard Reese, who set the all-time Baylor freshman rushing record last year, or the impact of a new defensive coordinator (but familiar face) in Matthew Powledge, who returned to Baylor after a year at Oregon.

    The best news? This Saturday, we can move past all the talk and predictions, and get down to watching and cheering — and that’s a win for the entire Baylor Family.

    Sic ’em, Baylor Football!