Opening camp: Baylor Bears
First up: Baylor.
Media's predicted finish: Seventh
Biggest story line: Can Nick Florence fill RG3's legendary cleats? Florence is a much, much different player, but he's mobile and has plenty of experience for what's essentially still a first-year starter. Better yet, he's got a fantastic offensive line headlined by Ivory Wade and Cyril Richardson. He'll have two of the league's best receivers in Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese, and be supported by an outstanding trio of backs in Jarred Salubi, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin.
Biggest question mark: The defense. Baylor won't have a Heisman winner to outweigh a rough season from the defense. The Bears were the first team in FBS history last season to win four consecutive games in a single season while also giving up at least 30 points in each win. Phil Bennett is ready for Year 2, and his defense has a lot to prove after finishing ahead of only Kansas in total defense. The Bears forced lots of turnovers late in the season, helping them finish strong, but will that continue?
Fun fact: The Bears' six-game win streak is the longest of any team in one of college football's six major conference. The MAC's Northern Illinois (9) is the only team who has won more consecutive games entering 2012.
Who needs to step up: Williams and the backfield. Baylor had the Big 12's leading rusher in Terrance Ganaway and leading receiver in Kendall Wright last season. Those losses are big, too. Williams and the backfield trio have the potential to be great replacements for the Bears, who have had 1,200-yard rushers in each of the past two seasons. Who knows if a featured back will emerge, but this group has to be productive if Baylor's going to reach a third consecutive bowl.
Don't forget about: S Ahmad Dixon and CB K.J. Morton. Neither get the same recognition as guys who earned a reputation as the league's best at their position, but after really strong finishes to 2011, Dixon and Morton might make a run in 2012 that proves they deserve a place in the conversation as one of the Big 12's best defensive backs.
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