The Baylor players who will return to the football field this fall will have to prove they still belong ranked among the nation’s top teams.
Poll voters, it appears, will not think they do.
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach released the third edition of his 2016 Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings. The first poll, released after the bowl season in January, placed the Bears, fresh off a bowl-game demolition of North Carolina, at No. 4 in the country, behind only Michigan, Florida State and defending national champion Alabama.
In his post-spring poll released about a month ago, Schlabach dropped Baylor slightly to No. 7.
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Now here we are one month later, and less than 60 days from the start of fall camp and less than 90 days from the Bears’ season-opener on Sept. 2. The startling sexual assault scandal that exploded over the last month and cost Baylor football architect Art Briles his job is expected to set the program back years.
Starting this year.
In Schlabach’s latest poll, the Bears are nowhere to be found, tumbling from No. 7 to out of the poll. The early benefactor of Baylor’s slide is its Big 12 rival TCU, which moved back into the poll at No. 20.
Former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe was hired as acting coach to clean up the mess and set a new course. He still has an outstanding roster of players to put into action, and, as of now, a set of assistant coaches still in place who know their personnel. Still, it’s highly possible those remaining assistants could be released as more details of the disgraceful scandal leak.
Either way, Grobe is going to have to lift a team whose exterior might suggest its prepared to fight, but whose interior is bruised, while morale is severely damaged. Many of the players who signed national letters of intent are trying to break free of their commitments so they can sign at other schools. The 2017 recruiting class has been nearly entirely wiped out.
More polls from the college football media will begin to trickle out as we head into the summer months. Updated Las Vegas odds will be released. All almost certainly will not be kind to the reeling Bears.
Baylor finished the 2015 season with a 10-3 record and ranked No. 13 in the nation in both the Associated Press and the Coaches poll, a remarkable finish really considering the Bears lost their top three quarterbacks to injury.
Expect them to start the 2016 season ranked well below that, if ranked at all.