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What the Predictive Stats Say About Baylor for 2023

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Media Days Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The official start of the college football season is just a day away, and the predictive statistics from the major prognosticators are all out. While these numbers are meaningless once the players make it onto the field, they do serve a useful role in setting expectations for what’s to come.

As a reminder, these statistics are meant to predict how a team will perform against an average opponent. Brian Fremeau’s FEI focuses on possession-level efficiency. Bill Connelly’s SP+ utilizes play-by-play data to score teams on efficiency, explosiveness, field position, ability to finish drives, and turnovers. FPI is ESPN’s model to estimate expected points added per play. Sagarin, by Jeff Sagarin, is an ELO rating system that uses game outcomes, margin of victory, and strength of opponent to rate teams. For a full description of each statistic, including what determines their pre-season values, check out my primer from last season.

Below is a table of Baylor’s rankings from 2022 and their pre-season rankings for the upcoming year. There was a pretty big spread to start last season, with Sagarin projecting a top-10 finish for the Bears and SP+ putting us down at 40. As we all remember (or as some of us have repressed), SP+ ended up being closer to the truth. By the year’s end, FEI and SP+ had us in the low 30s, and FPI and Sagarin in the mid-20s.

Predictive Statistics Rankings for Baylor

Name 2022 Pre-season Rank 2022 End of Year Rank 2023 Pre-season Rank 2023 Predicted Wins
Name 2022 Pre-season Rank 2022 End of Year Rank 2023 Pre-season Rank 2023 Predicted Wins
FEI 17 39 28 6.6
SP+ 40 36 34 7.1
FPI 22 26 23 7.4
Sagarin 9 27 22 N/A

FPI is a black box, so it’s hard to say why they liked Baylor so much. Sagarin “rewarded” our close loss to TCU and blow-out of Texas Tech. FEI really disliked our defense (our touchdown rate and available yards allowed were both ranked near the bottom 100 of the country). SP+ penalized our defense, but also our lack of offensive explosiveness.

There’s a narrower spread of projections for Baylor this time around. All four models predict that Baylor will improve, either by a small degree (FPI, SP+) or quite large (FEI). Working in Baylor’s favor is their recent history; as 1-11 and 2-7 seasons go further in the past, a 12-2 season suggests a higher ceiling than 6-7. Working against us is our returning production (bottom third of the country) and our recruitment classes (mid 30s nationally the last two years).

You’ll notice that the three models which provide a predicted win/loss number have Baylor winning 7 games. That might seem low given three of Baylor’s four pre-season ranks are in the 20s, but this reflects Baylor’s above average strength of schedule. Speaking of their schedule...

Schedule predictions

Here’s how Baylor’s schedule should shake out according to the four pre-season predictive statistics. These are not my predictions, nor do I think the predictions will stay the way they are as the season progresses.

NCAA Football: Texas State at Baylor Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Texas State

Baylor opens the season against their second-lowest rated opponent. In fact, Texas State is only one of two opponents that any rating model considers below average. Baylor is projected to win this handedly.


Baylor’s second opponent is the exact opposite of their first. Utah is considered to be Baylor’s second most difficult opponent by every model except for Sagarin, where they narrowly fall below TCU. While this game is in Waco, home field advantage is not enough to move this into the toss-up category according to the predictive stats. That said, Utah’s QB Cam Rising is recovering from an ACL injury sustained in January, and these models do not account for injuries.


No modeler even deigns themselves to publish a rating for Long Island. Baylor will win.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Media Days Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


This is unanimously the most difficult opponent for Baylor. Texas is a consensus top-10 team and should be favored in every game but one (at least in the pre-season). According to the predictive stats, Baylor will lose this game.


Baylor’s first away game comes against Big 12 newcomer Central Florida. The Golden Knights will be coming off of a trip to Manhattan, and the “Family Weekend” crowd should be pretty hyped to host their first conference game. Baylor has a slight edge in all four ratings, but UCF’s home field advantage places this in the toss-up category. For the record, UCF is projected to be Baylor’s 5th-7th most difficult opponent.

Texas Tech

Baylor returns home to face the fighting Joey McGuire’s. FEI and Sagarin prefer Baylor while SP+ and FPI give the nod to Texas Tech at a neutral site. This game is in Waco, though, so all four should predict a very narrow Bears victory. I’ll call this a toss-up.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Media Days Austin American Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK


Does Baylor get any conference newcomers at home? No, but that shouldn’t stop them from winning both games. Only four teams are consistently rated lower than Cincinnati, and home field advantage shouldn’t be enough to bump this into toss-up range for any model, except for maybe FEI.

Iowa State

FEI has Iowa State one spot above Baylor in their rankings, and Sagarin has Baylor only 6 spots ahead. Both SP+ and FPI have a much wider gap in favor of the Bears. Since this game will be played at home, all four raters should predict a Baylor victory.


Baylor hosts Houston before a very difficult road stretch (didn’t I previously say Baylor plays all their new conference opponents away from Waco? Yes, I forgot that Houston existed). The Cougars are a consensus 9th or 10th most difficult opponent for the Bears. Put this game in the “win” column for Baylor.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Texas Christian at Kansas State Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State

FEI really likes the Wildcats, rating them 11th in the country. Sagarin says 14th. SP+ has them at 20th. FPI is way out of line, putting KSU behind UCF. By extension, in everything but FPI, Kansas State is favored to win big. Seriously, FPI? What’s wrong with you.


TCU hovers around Kansas State in the predictive stats, frequently within 5 spots (with the exception of FPI...see above). Unfortunately, that gap, along with the game being in Fort Worth, is not enough to justify placing this game in the toss-up category.

West Virginia

Baylor ends the regular season with a nice palette cleanser. They return to Waco to host their lowest-rated conference opponent according to FEI, SP+, and FPI. Sagarin only thinks the Mountaineers are slightly better than Houston. A lot is going to change between August and November, but as of today, this should be a Baylor win.

NCAA Football: Albany at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


This is a fun schedule! Baylor has six games where they are clearly projected to win, two games well within any statistical margin of error, and four games where they are projected to lose. Don’t be discouraged if the Bears start 2-2; they could win the next five and lock in Bowl eligibility before November.