June 16, 2024

Baylor crumbling down the stretch in Dave Aranda’s fourth season

Baylor Bears Football

Baylor Coach Dave Aranda glances at the crowd during a timeout in the fourth quarter against Kansas State Saturday November 20, 2021 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

There’s no denying that Dave Aranda has fallen on hard times since leading Baylor to a Big 12 Championship two years ago.

After all, the Bears ended 2022 on a four-game losing streak, and have lost 10 of their last 13 contests overall. If Baylor drops another game, it will guarantee the program’s second losing season under Aranda. The 47-year old coach is 23-22 at Baylor. Trying to stop the bleeding for the reeling Bears, with three tilts left on the slate is going to be challenging.

Baylor’s schedule only gets tougher to close out the season. Two of the remaining three opponents are already bowl eligible, and the next two games are on the road. It just so happens that the Bears are undefeated on the road in Big 12 play this fall.

Kansas State is still upset about the nail-biting loss at Texas last week, so Aranda should be expecting a dogfight at Bill Snyder Family Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats throttled the Bears 31-3 in Waco last year, but Aranda’s squad won in Manhattan in 2021.

The two teams appear to be going in opposite directions. Kansas State is trying to earn a good bowl bid, while Baylor (3-6) is struggling to stay afloat. Aranda has to be feeling some type of pressure as the Bears navigate through the Big 12 meat grinder.

Baylor ranks 63rd nationally in total offense, and there hasn’t been much consistency. Quarterback Blake Shapen, who led the Bears to a Big 12 Title as a freshman, has missed three games this season because of injuries. Shapen’s numbers are solid when he has been behind center though. He has thrown for 1,435 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions over the past five games. Running back Dawson Pendergrass has three rushing touchdowns over the past two battles.

Aranda is known as a defensive guru, but that’s the area the Bears are struggling at. The Bears are currently 11th in the Big 12, and 88th in the FBS in total defense. Baylor’s defense can’t stop the run. It’s mind-boggling that the Bears are dead last in the conference, and 119th nationally in rushing defense. Now Aranda’s boys are going up against the second-best rushing team in the Big 12.

Aranda can’t let the overtime loss to Houston linger and beat his team twice. That’s why it’s going to be important for the fourth-year coach to rally his troops, and close out the season strong. College football has turned into a what have you done for me lately-type of business. Aranda’s Big 12 Title is in the rearview mirror, and he hasn’t really accomplished anything of significance ever since. The naysayers claim he won the hardware with Matt Rhule’s players.

Regardless, there has to be an explanation as to why the Bears are taking steps back under Aranda’s leadership. He can change the narrative if Baylor can somehow win the next three clashes, but Aranda has no margin for error. No doubt the Bears’ backs are against the wall. So Aranda’s coaching is going to determine if the players respond to adversity, or falter during the process.