But the point of this column is not to tell you what you already know, but to point out some things only the diehards are paying attention to concerning Baylor's 2013 season. You may want to downplay these things or ignore them and simply say "I will reserve judgment once Baylor plays more difficult teams," and that is fine of course. However, after you know these things, you have to stop with some of the vapid comments concerning Baylor's position in the national race.
Baylor's strength of schedule is 96 according to Jeff Sagarin. Nothing to write home about, to be sure. However, are SOS #'s of 41, 54, 68, and 69 blowing anyone away? Those are the SOS #'s of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Ohio State. Bama still has Mississippi State and Chattanooga on their schedule, so their number could go even lower. Baylor's is going nowhere but up.
Certainly, everyone realizes the folly of relying solely on schedule comparisons as a means to judge a team, but considering Bill Hancock and Jeff Long said common opponents will be utilized in the playoff selection committee's evaluation next year, it is at the very least somewhat relevant. Now is an appropriate time to review Baylor's schedule thus far and what it really means.
Baylor 69, Wofford 3. I'm not here to tell you to respect the Wofford win; I know you never will. But know these facts. Baylor wanted to play SMU in this slot, not Wofford. SMU cancelled late and Baylor had to scramble to find an opponent. Wofford, who once again has a winning record and at 4-1 is challenging for their conference championship, has given plenty of FBS teams scares in recent years (2012 - 24-7 at South Carolina; 2011 - 35-27 at Clemson; 2008 - 23-13 at South Carolina). The point is not that Baylor beat Wofford, but it's how they beat Wofford that analysts should note. Wofford Coach Mike Ayers has been there for over 20 years and said this about Baylor, "They're good. We've played a lot of FBS schools. This one we weren't close as a football team where we needed to be. Those guys are good."
Baylor 70, Buffalo 13. As much-maligned AP voter Jon Wilner put it in his blog this week to justify his #15 ranking of Baylor, "Buffalo has done nothing of consequence." Depending on your bias, that may or may not be true. But let's look at what they have done, and you can decide the significance of this win. They are currently 6-2 and 4-0 in conference. In their last 5 games, they have won by a combined 37.8 to 10. No opponent other than Baylor has held them to less than 20 points. And the opponent that held them to 20? Ohio State, who beat them 40-20.
If the hypothetical selection committee of this year was looking for a common opponent between Ohio State and Baylor, this is all they have. The OSU/Buffalo game was 30-13 at the half, and 30-20 with 10:00 to go in the 3rd quarter. Meanwhile, the Baylor/Buffalo game was 56-13 at the half, and 63-13 with 10:00 to go in the 3rd quarter. So who was the better team? Draw your own conclusion from what Buffalo Head Coach Jeff Quinn said after the Baylor game, "I felt good about last week's game against Ohio State, but this week we weren't even close to the way I felt we would hold up against Baylor. They are deserving to be in the top five right now in my opinion."
Baylor 70, ULM 7. A few quick points about ULM. When Baylor played them, they still had their starting senior QB Kolton Browning. Oklahoma played ULM in the first game of the season and won 38-0. By a straight numbers comparison, Baylor was more dominant. ULM also went on the road and won at Wake Forest. Yes, the same Wake Forest team that nearly upset Miami last week. They are 4-4 on the season, and 2-1 in conference. So, you will note that none of Baylor's non-conference opponents have losing records. For all the talk about how horrible Baylor's non-conference schedule was, you would think at least one of the teams it played would have a losing record. Not so.
The rest of Baylor's schedule thus far offers a few more tidbits worth noting. First, the overall notion that Baylor has only played the weaker teams in the conference cannot be denied. But the thing anyone analyzing the situation should point out is the way Baylor has beaten people. And I certainly do not mean running up the score, rather, I mean total domination from the 1st snap of the game versus a much closer game. Let us review what has happened.
Texas beat Iowa State by 1 point. Texas Tech beat them by 7. Baylor beat them by 64.
West Virginia beat Oklahoma State. WVU lost to OU by 9 and Tech by 10. Baylor beat them by 31 in a merciful 2nd half where Baylor was leading 66-21 going into the 4th quarter.
Kansas was down 20-10 at the half to Tech. They were within 6 of OU in the 4th quarter, and lost at TCU by 10 after being tied at half. Baylor led 45-0 before calling off the dogs in their 59-14 victory over KU.
Kansas State seems to be the only game some will talk about. They mention Baylor trailed early in the 4th. That is true after a flukey third quarter that included a blocked punt and a fumble which led to K-State touchdowns. But Baylor was up 21-10 at the half (and could have had 28 but for some uncharacteristic penalties and drops), and outscored K-State 14-0 in the 4th quarter when it counted. K-State is never terrible. They played OSU within 4 in Stillwater and Texas within 10 in Austin. They've already beaten West Virginia in Manhattan, and it would not shock me to see them pick up another few wins there.
What's the Point?
Again, the point is not to say that Baylor's strength of schedule is higher than it actually is. That's simply a mathematical equation and cannot be refuted. Rather, the point is that when you say "Baylor has only played Teams A, B, and C," you really should be saying "Although Baylor has only played Teams A, B, and C, they have beat that opponent far worse than any other loss that opponent has suffered this season."
In the next part of this series, we will look ahead to Baylor's remaining 5 games on the schedule, and tell you What Baylor Wants You to Know about that, but one last comment is appropriate. What Baylor does not want you to know is this. The doubts, the qualifications to any positive comment, the backhanded compliment of how simplistic the offense is, it is all music to the ears of Coach Art Briles. Can't you just imagine some poor high school coach back in his Stephenville days popping off about his new style of offense? Or some poor Conference USA coach thinking he would not be able to turn around a winless Houston program?
It's the same thing now. "Chip on your shoulder" is a cliché used far too often, but it is the type of thing that can give a team an extra edge. It is even more than that. Over the last few years, it was proving that Baylor could win 10 games. Could win a Heisman trophy. Could raise money to build a new stadium. Could compete in the Big 12. And could recruit athletes that other top Big 12 schools wanted. Coach Briles often says it - he is in the proving business.
And now what does Coach Briles and the Bears want to prove? That they can win a conference championship and ultimately a national championship. As quarterback Bryce Petty would say, Baylor is the "but" team. They are putting up good numbers, "but" look who they are playing. They have played well at home, "but" how will they do on the road. It fuels Petty and the Bears. And so even though Baylor wants you to be informed, it certainly wants you to continue with the "buts."