Baylor lived out its best-case scenario in 2011, with Robert Griffin III leading the Bears to a 10-win season (including an Alamo Bowl victory) and picking up a Heisman Trophy along the way. What can BU do as a follow-up act without the star quarterback in 2012?
The answer to that question depends largely upon those who will attempt to keep the offense rolling along this season.
Senior quarterback Nick Florence filled in nicely for RG3 last season against Texas Tech, when Griffin suffered a concussion just before halftime of a close game. Florence led the Bears to a 66-42 win. Receiver Terrance Williams, another senior, will attempt to make up for the loss of Kendall Wright. Ditto for senior running back Jarred Salubi, trying to fill the role left behind by Terrance Ganaway.
Picked to finish seventh in the Big 12's preseason media poll, the Bears have enough question marks to make their best-case and worst-case scenarios vastly different. Few Big 12 teams may be more interesting to watch early in the season.
Best-case scenario: Robert Griffin III? Who needs him? The team's trio of senior offensive leaders partner with Oregon transfer running back Lache Seastrunk to form an offense that proves, surprisingly, to be one of the Big 12's best. BU stuns TCU and Texas early in Big 12 play and loses only to WVU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (the latter in a shootout) to finish 9-3 and earn a return trip to the Alamo Bowl. Art Briles is named Big 12 coach of the year, and BU fans see their program rising quickly to one that could be an annual contender in the conference.
Worst-case scenario: The Bears are unable to replicate RG3's production on offense, and in a Big 12 stacked with teams that can light up the scoreboard, a nightmare season ensues. It starts with a season-opening stumble against a decent SMU squad and ends with Baylor beating only Big 12 punching-bag Kansas in conference play. A 3-9 record leaves onlookers wondering if BU is a flash-in-the-pan program, with only a star quarterback to thank for 2011's success.
Most-likely scenario: Briles and company manage to get through nonconference play unscathed, but Big 12 competition proves to be much tougher. Losses to West Virginia, TCU and Texas bring the Bears back down to earth, but Baylor scrapes together wins over Iowa State, Kansas and Texas Tech to finish 6-6 and earn a minor bowl berth. Briles keeps a bit of momentum for his program and uses the lure of a new stadium to bring in a reasonably strong recruiting class that gets Bears fans excited about the years to come.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter.