1. With a 12 day break, Scott Drew and his Baylor Bears will hit the court for their first game since their upset win over Kentucky in Arlington. Baylor is 8-1 on the year and has 4 games against lower conference opponents that should serve as good preparation for conference play. Quite honestly, the Bears schedule so far in 2013 has been quite difficult, easily ranking as one of the twenty hardest schedules so far. This is quite a change from past years, where the Bears schedules featured little difficulty and did not prepare them adequately for the conference season. In fact, the only other ranked school with a schedule that difficult is Kansas, who has already played Duke, Villanova, Florida, Colorado and New Mexico who are all Top 50 caliber opponents. The Jayhawks are 7-3 with losses to three of their last four opponents. They are just 2-3 in those Top 50 games, while the Bears are 3-1 in their games against Kentucky, Syracuse, Dayton and Colorado.
While the Bears are ranked just 18th in the coaches poll, they are 14th in the AP poll. Expect them to move up significantly in the coaches poll, as jumps are usually delayed a little bit. Kansas and Kentucky should fall behind the Bears in both polls, at least moving Baylor up 2 spots in each. It has been a tremendous start for the Baylor Bears against a challenging schedule, one that will pick up steam in conference play as the Bears open at Iowa State.
2. Whether Baylor fans like it or not, it is a great thing when your coach is wanted. That means he is doing a good job, or in the case of Art Briles, a GREAT job. The "marquee" position in the state opened up with the long rumored departure of Texas head coach Mack Brown. To put it bluntly, Texas would be short-sighted to at least not gauge Briles' interest in the position that is unless they get one of their pie-in-the-sky names like the Harbaugh brothers from the NFL or Nick Saban from Alabama. But more than likely, those biggest of big names aren't going to come.
But let's take a look at what the Texas program actually is. They are a 112 year old program that has really been led by two excellent coaches since 1957. Without Darrell Royal and Mack Brown on the sidelines, the Longhorns are just 158-85 and are 4-10 in their bowl games under Fred Akers, David McWilliams and John Mackovic. They have just 5 ten win seasons in those 25 years. That is good, but it isn't great either. Like all schools, Texas will succeed with a great coach. Yes, they can still be good even with a mediocre coach on the sidelines, but to live up to the lofty expectations down in Austin, good will get you fired.
Another reality of the Longhorn job, and the major reason why I think a coach like Briles would pass on it, is the Longhorn Network and the demands of it. You open your practices to camera crews every day, and have to do coaches shows, interviews and other film reviews for television every week. In the end, a younger, more energetic coach who loves that type of spotlight will be a better fit for what the overall job of UT coach will entail. Would Briles want to sit in a studio a few hours a week talking about football? I have my doubts.
3. Well, with the regular season over, time to take look at how my projections for the Big 12 football year went. If you remember, I had a 4-way tie for first place in the Big 12 in my Crystal Ball series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) Here is a comparison on how I had the Projected and Actual Standings:
|1||Baylor||10-2 (7-2)||1||Baylor||11-1 (8-1)|
|1||Oklahoma||10-2 (7-2)||2||Oklahoma||10-2 (7-2)|
|1||Oklahoma State||10-2 (7-2)||2||Oklahoma State||10-2 (7-2)|
|1||TCU||9-3 (7-2)||2||Texas||8-4 (7-2)|
|5||Texas||8-4 (5-4)||5||Kansas State||7-5 (5-4)|
|6||Kansas State||7-5 (4-5)||6||Texas Tech||7-5 (4-5)|
|6||Texas Tech||7-5 (4-5)||7||TCU||4-8 (2-7)|
|8||West Virginia||6-6 (3-6)||7||West Virginia||4-8 (2-7)|
|9||Iowa State||4-8 (1-8)||7||Iowa State||3-9 (2-7)|
|10||Kansas||2-10 (0-9)||10||Kanas||3-9 (1-8)|
Well, looks like I had most of the team's right around where they ended up, except for TCU that is. I nailed Oklahoma and Oklahoma State's record perfectly, while I had Texas at the right final record, just not doing as well in conference play. I also got Texas Tech and Kansas State correct as well, but missed on West Virginia by two games and Iowa State and Kansas by a game. I also missed on the Bears by 1 game as well. Needless to say, I am glad I was wrong on that one, and thus possibly avoiding that 4-way tie that could have occurred if the Bears lost to TCU, Texas Tech or Kansas State.
4. With several injured players hopefully being ready to play again at the Fiesta Bowl, the Bears could be at full strength for the first time since the Oklahoma game. Bryce Hager is continuing to get better, but not much news has come out on his injured groin. It does sound like it was a torn groin, and not a pull that we first heard about though. There has been even less news on Spencer Drango, who after having back surgery is looking at getting back to the lineup. He is the one probably the farthest away from playing and it might behoove the Bears to sit their star left tackle out and get him ready for his junior year. The one closest to playing though is Tevin Reese, the Bears speedster receiver who has been working out a bit and was recently cleared for full practice. All hands on deck for the Bears in the Fiesta Bowl with them looking for their 12th win of the season.
5. With the announcement this weekend of Jameis Winston winning the Heisman Trophy, it got me thinking back to a few years ago when Robert Griffin III won it. I remember being anxious and excited for the announcement. Funny enough, it was the weekend that my wife and I moved into our new house, so I had the cable guy out there Saturday to make sure that we have everything hooked up and ready to roll. Spend all day Sunday setting things up, just the normal stuff to get into a new residence. Right before it started, I cracked open a beer and took a deep breathe.
It was a new beginning for my family and me, but I couldn't stop thinking about the possible new beginning for Baylor that could be kick started in a few minutes. Baylor had a chance to join a very small fraternity of schools, spear headed by the amazing talents of RG3. It was a chance to put our name out there in a good way, not in a suing the SEC or losing streaks or scandals. It was a way to say this is the NEW Baylor. Two seasons later, we are living that new Baylor. Our football team is Big 12 champions and has a chance to finish 12-1, easily the best year in Baylor football history. We have a tremendous stadium opening next year and the sky is the limit for Baylor football. Think about that, and say it out loud. Baylor football is living its full potential right now and with the stadium opening up next year, it can get even better.