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Baylor coach Matt Rhule will make his McLane Stadium debut against Liberty.

Baylor game-by-game predictions: Bears shooting for bowl invite

The Matt Rhule era is officially underway for Baylor football. There will be some growing pains, but there is plenty of talent left on the roster to build something special.

Here’s how we predict every Baylor game will go next season.

Game 1: vs. Liberty

When: Sept. 2

Where: McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas

There will be some awkward moments considering disgraced former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw now heads the Liberty athletic department. However, Liberty will barely be transitioning to the FBS level. The Rhule era gets off to a good start.

Prediction: Baylor wins 45-3

Record: 1-0

Game 2: vs. UTSA

When: Sept. 9

Where: McLane Stadium in Waco

Don’t overlook the Roadrunners. Head coach Frank Wilson led the University of Texas at San Antonio to its first bowl game in 2016. Now, the program is picked to finish second in the preseason Conference USA poll. This game will cause Baylor fans some headaches, but the program will still win comfortably.

Prediction: Baylor wins 35-17

Record: 2-0

Game 3: at Duke

When: Sept. 16

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C.

Most critics have penciled this game in as a win. In previous years, that may have been true. Of course, that overlooks that Baylor is a rebuilding team playing on the road against a perennial bowl team. The defense makes some key stops late, but it sure as heck won’t be comfortable.

Prediction: Baylor wins 27-21

Record: 3-0

Game 4: vs. Oklahoma

When: Sept. 23

Where: McLane Stadium in Waco

Before 2011, Baylor had never won a game against the vaunted University of Oklahoma. Since then, the Bears have actually played surprisingly well against them, going 3-3. Having an inexperienced head coach might cost Oklahoma at some point in the year, but it won’t be against Baylor.

Prediction: Baylor loses 52-21

Record: 3-1

Game 5: at Kansas State

When: Sept. 30

Where: Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas State has a simple formula – it beats who it’s supposed to beat and loses to the teams it should lose to. The Wildcats are supposed to beat Baylor. The Bears’ defense will be better-prepared than recent matchups between these two teams, but the Snydercats are just too consistent on both sides.

Prediction: Baylor loses 31-21

Record: 3-2

Game 6: at Oklahoma State

When: Oct. 14

Where: Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.

Baylor pulled the upset over Oklahoma State last season. However, don’t expect the momentum to continue against a Cowboys squad that could compete for a College Football Playoff spot. Baylor has also won once in Stillwater – ever.

Prediction: Baylor loses 42-21

Record: 3-3

Game 7: vs. West Virginia

When: Oct. 21

Where: McLane Stadium in Waco

West Virginia will take a major step back this year. The Bears also came pretty close to pulling off the win last season. With the game in Waco on Homecoming weekend, the Bears will take care of business and avoid what could become a 5-game slide.

Prediction: Baylor wins 35-31

Record: 4-3

Game 8: vs. Texas

When: Oct. 28

Where: McLane Stadium in Waco

This game will rank among the most contentious of the season. No fan base in college football took as much pleasure in Baylor’s demise as the Longhorns. Ultimately though, the Longhorns are just too talented at this point.

Prediction: Baylor loses 31-27

Record: 4-4

Game 9: at Kansas

When: Nov. 4

Where: Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan.

This isn’t hilarious meme Kansas. Then again, it isn’t Mark Mangino’s Kansas either. The Jayhawks are much improved and will make this game much closer than it needs to be for at least three quarters.

Prediction: Baylor wins 38-24

Record: 5-4

Game 10: vs. Texas Tech

When: Nov. 11

Where: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

This game is extremely losable. The Red Raiders and Bears always play far too close in Arlington, and Kliff Kingsbury will be coaching for his job all year long. Baylor will just edge it out, but everyone on both sides will feel bad after this one. Doesn’t matter though – Baylor’s in a bowl game.

Prediction: Baylor wins 31-24

Record: 6-4

Game 11: vs. Iowa State

When: Nov. 18

Where: McLane Stadium in Waco

Matt Campbell is building something special at Iowa State. Unfortunately for him, it’s still a few years away from being complete.

Prediction: Baylor wins 41-21

Record: 7-4

Game 12: at TCU

When: Nov. 24

Where: Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas

It’s hard to say what either of these teams will look like at this point. Baylor’s offensive line could be torn to shreds. TCU might be starting a true freshman at quarterback with a questionable arm. Plus, it’s a rivalry game. Don’t count anything out.

Prediction: Baylor loses 38-28

Record: 7-5

Final prediction: 7-5

Baylor might have the most moving pieces in the Big 12. The skill position talent could be elite, but it is completely unproven. Defensive backs could become a strength of the team, but the unit is young. That doesn’t even count the uncertainty on the offensive line or under center.

With all the transition on and off the field, fans should consider a bowl game a successful year in Matt Rhule’s first season. Anything more than that is gravy. Of course, it’s hard to have any idea which games those wins will be.