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Predicting the Next Five Years: Baylor Football in 2022

SB Nation wants us to offer predictions, so we’re doing that!

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The future is incredibly difficult to predict. But SB Nation has asked every blog to offer a prediction of what the next five years will look like for every team. So, we’re doing this.

Come on, how can you say we can’t predict the future?

Let’s go back to 2012 to show how tough predicting the future is. Imagine the odds the 2012 version of you would have needed to bet that Donald Trump would become president while winning over 300 electoral votes, Bashar Al-Assad would still run Syria and Texas would not only be far from back—they would lose to Kansas.

The difficulty of predicting major events was thoroughly examined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in “The Black Swan.” One major issue we’re blinded by is a belief that systems are naturally stable and history is often a good predictor of the past. Sometimes it is. But in college football, a few minor tweaks cause major changes.

Another difficulty predicting college football’s future is that the system is inherently unstable. First, the Big 12’s television deal runs through the 2024-2025 season. But if several teams have invites to new conferences, the Big 12 could fold before that. Second, cord cutting has hampered ESPN and other cable networks. The easy money of the first two decades of the 21st century may have been a false sign of what the next decades would portend. Finally, teams can change quickly. Mack Brown had Texas rolling and might have won a second title if Colt McCoy hadn’t gone down against Alabama. Brian Kelly had Notre Dame back, until they weren’t. Texas A&M ran the state, until we remembered that a team that actually runs the state wouldn’t have to say they run the state.

I’m still going to offer some predictions about the future. These are educated guesses from following the league and being right about a few things. I said—at a time when many were sure the Big 12 would expand—that I didn’t think the league would. I’m also 12-of-12 predicting who the committee will place in the playoff.

NCAA Football: American Athletic Conference Championship-Temple vs Navy
Matt Rhule has won the American. Now he’ll try to win the Big 12
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

But I’ve also been wrong about many things. I guessed zero of the major conference champions last season. I thought Baylor football would go 9-3 in the preseason podcast and Matt Rhule wasn’t on my radar as a possible coach (though I’m thrilled with the hire).

My hope in laying out what I’ve been right and wrong about is that anyone reading this can see where I’ve been right and wrong and assign whatever value he or she wants to these predictions. Too often people discount when they’re wrong. I hope to get better at making predictions, and hopefully five years from now a few of these are right. More likely, several things totally unexpected will happen that will shift the course of college football.

Five predictions for the next five years:

1. Baylor wins a Big 12 title and make the championship game- Baylor secured the 2021 Big 12 title. Baylor went on a run in the postseason before losing to Ohio State in the championship game. That game is the first championship without an SEC team since 2015.

2. But the Rhule era starts a little slow- Few expected the Bears to return to prominence after Rhule began his Baylor tenure 13-13. In his third season, the Bears won 10 games, and in his fifth, the team finally won the Big 12.

3. The 2021 season goes well for the Big 12- The Bears reached the title game after finishing the regular season 11-1. Baylor lost to Texas during the regular season. But the Bears got their revenge in the Big 12 Championship and entered the playoff as the No. 2 seed. Texas—grateful the playoff expanded to eight teams for the first time—makes it as the No. 6 seed. The Longhorns are in the playoff for the third time.

4. The Big 12 survives into the next decade- Behind a strong run and the ability to make the playoff in a 10 team league, Texas works to save the Big 12. Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas, Kansas State, West Virginia and Iowa State all concur. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State flirt with the PAC-12, but after finding out they can make more money in the Big 12, the league signs a new 10 year deal with Fox and YouTube.

Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are the most surprising programs on the downswing. Two of—if not the best Big 12 teams entering the 2017 season—deal with the good times taking a hiatus. The Cowboys lose Mike Gundy to Arkansas after the 2017 season, and Bob Stoops has had a precipitous decline the last four seasons. That decline surprises everyone, considering just four years earlier the Sooners nearly won a national championship, and Baker Mayfield won the Heisman.

5. Rhule emerges as a leading candidate at Penn State and for NFL jobs- Baylor returns several starters and opens the 2022 season ranked in the top five. James Franklin has become a big name in NFL circles, and many expect he will leave Penn State at the end of the season. Between the NFL jobs and the potential Penn State opening, Baylor fans know this may be the last run for Matt Rhule at Baylor. But with a top 15 recruiting class and a top five team, the Bears feel confident Mack Rhoades can make another great hire.