Baylor's never won the Big 12, and really, it's never quite come close. A magical close to the 2011 season to reach 10 wins and capture the program's Heisman Trophy is as close as the Bears have come, but even a six-game winning streak to close the season meant finishing two games behind league champ Oklahoma State, who thrashed Baylor by five touchdowns earlier in the season.
The 2013 schedule sets up Baylor for success early in the season, but the readers are absolutely not buying Baylor's chances as a Big 12 title contender.
The votes are in, and 64 percent of readers say Baylor is a Big 12 title "pretender," compared to just 36 percent of you who could see the Bears truly contending come fall.
I'd say the odds are definitely in favor of the former group, but it wouldn't really shock me to see Baylor make a run. The defense is experienced and made huge strides late in the season, much bigger than the baby steps it took to help fuel that six-game winning streak at the end of 2011.
If that can continue and the offense can find a few receivers to help Bryce Petty look like the quarterback Art Briles and Baylor believe he is, the Bears have a recipe for some major success in 2013.
As far as factors outside of the Bears' control, I see one major helper and one major deterrent to their true chances. The biggest help is the Big 12 is wide open yet again this season. It looked that way last season, too, so you never know. But back in 2011, Baylor was chasing a national title contender who fell victim to a late-season upset. That was the case again in 2012, but it's hard to see any Big 12 team truly eyeing a 12-0 record in 2013. Two losses might be enough to win a share of the Big 12 this season. Getting to 7-2 in conference play won't be easy, but it's a lot more realistic when you think about it in those terms rather than expecting Baylor to go 9-0 in order to win the league.
The biggest thing working against them, though? In consecutive weeks, the Bears have to go on the road to face the two teams I project as the Big 12's best this season: Oklahoma State and TCU. Cap that off with one final game at Floyd Casey Stadium against Texas before opening their new stadium on the banks of the Brazos, and you have a heck of a finish to the season.
Can Baylor make it happen and make history? The fans say no, but fortunately for the Bears, they'll have the last word on whether the answer is "yes" or "no."