1. Before late in the 4th quarter against Iowa State, there were few questions about the Baylor Bears potential in the 2015 season. They were one of the best, if not THE best, teams in the nation. They were led by an offense that sets a new standard for "insane" every year it seems, and Seth Russell was its captain. Then Russell went out of the game, then out for the year with a fractured bone in his neck.
There is now a big question mark around the Bears and their ability to keep winning. The schedule steps up in terms of difficulty from here on out, starting with a road trip to Kansas State. The Wildcats, who have struggled the past few weeks, would love nothing more than to upset the Bears and end their championship hopes, just like the Bears did to Kansas State in 2012.
With bad weather expected, a raucaus Thursday night crowd, and the wizard of Manhattan Bill Snyder getting an extra week to prepare his team for his challenge, this should be a great test for the Bears and their new starting quarterback. Will the Bears surrounding Stidham step up their game to take the pressure off of their young quarterback? We will find out Thursday night.
2. The College Football Playoff is about to take over our Tuesday nights once again, as the first poll of the 2015 season gets ready to be announced. With 11 undefeated teams, including 8 in the Power-5 conferences, few know what to expect. The contenders at this point would seem to fit into four different groups:
- The Major undefeated - Clemson, Ohio State, LSU, Baylor, Michigan State, TCU
- The One-Loss Heavy weights - Alabama, Stanford, Florida, Notre Dame
- The Lesser Undefeated - Oklahoma State, Iowa
- Mid-Major Undefeated - Memphis, Houston
Those are the primary teams to watch out for, at least in the Top-10. Oklahoma, Utah, and Florida State also could suprise. However, those Top-6 teams should be at, or at least near the Top-4. Notre Dame has the best loss of the group (on the road at Clemson) alongside two good wins over Georgia Tech and Temple. Alabama lost at home to a ranked Ole Miss team and has wins over Wisconsin, Georgia and Texas A&M, though all three of those teams have fallen quite a bit. Florida beat Ole Miss, but lost to LSU already. Stanford has the worst loss of the bunch, a loss on the road to Northwestern, but have some good wins over USC, UCLA and Washington State.
For the unbeaten teams, Michigan State, Clemson and LSU all have strong wins, while Ohio State, Baylor and TCU are all without a signature Top-25 win. If you go off of who have you beaten, the Bears and Buckeyes might be outside the Top-4, and even behind a few 1-loss teams. The Bears have been dominant against a lackluster schedule, by far the weakest of any of the unbeaten or 1-loss heavyweights. Baylor fans will have to hope that their dominance, and their "eye-test" look will carry them into the Top-4.
3. My bet on the rankings do have the Bears at 4th. I think it will be Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and then Baylor. I could easily see the Bears falling a few spots though, with Michigan State and maybe Alabama jumping them. I do not see a good argument for the Bears being outside the Top-6 though. However, even if they are, it doesn't matter. Not yet. This ranking is for TV and good ratings, which it will get. The bulk of the Bears schedule is ahead of them, with TCU, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State still on the schedule. I imagine that all three of those teams will be in the Top-20 of the CFP poll, and maybe the Top-15. Baylor will have chances to impress.
4. First though, the Bears have to get past Kansas State, a team that is just 81st in the nation in scoring offense, putting up 27.1 points. They are 78th in scoring defense, allowing 29 points per game. The Wildcats are 3-4 on the year, with 0 wins in Big 12 play. Their wins are over an FCS team in South Dakota, a 1-win Texas-San Antonio, and an overtime home win over Louisiana Tech who is 6-3. They have already lost Oklahoma State, TCU, and Oklahoma, but two of those games were very winnable. Kansas State blew a 17 point halftime lead against TCU, and lost on a last minute field goal at Oklahoma State. Since those two games, they have been outscored 78-9 in losses to Oklahoma and Texas.
The Wildcats are better than they played in their last two games, but due to injuries, are probably not the same level of team that should have beaten TCU and Oklahoma State.
5. Ranking the Big 12
- Baylor - Thursday night with new starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham will say a lot about these Bears. If they can dominate in Manhattan, they stay on top.
- TCU - That was a dominant performance by Trevone Boykin last Thursday. The defense played better against WVU, but the Mountaineers left a lot of points on the field.
- Oklahoma - You can arguably say that no Big 12 team has played better the past three weeks. They have dominated Texas Tech, Kansas State and Kansas. They have one more game until the Baylor/TCU/OSU finisher.
- Oklahoma State - The offense is really starting to click. At 8-0, they start the real part of their schedule this weekend hosting TCU.
- West Virginia - Best 0-4 team in Big 12 history? I think so. They might be favored in all 5 of their remaining games, starting this week at home against the Red Raiders.
- Texas Tech - The offense is good, but the defense is still just awful. 70 points allowed to Oklahoma State at home.
- Iowa State - The Cyclones might have found something in quarterback Joel Lanning and running back Mike Warren. They look to play spoiler in 2 weeks with Oklahoma State coming to Ames.
- Texas - Oh, Texas. Zero points in Ames in a 24-0 loss. This offense is just not good.
- Kansas State - Four losses in a row, and just 9 points in their last two games. Just too many injuries for a young and inexperienced team.
- Kansas - A 62-7 Homecoming loss is never a good thing.