1. The Baylor Bears are not the champions of the Big 12. It is a fact now, following their 28-21 double overtime loss to TCU Friday night. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was just simply awful conditions to do anything, let alone play football. That doesn't matter, as Baylor fell for the 2nd time this year, and will fall short of their goals for the 2015 season. It was a season that started out with more promise than any in Baylor history. A top-5 preseason ranking, returning almost all of their key contributors from a year before. The only question was at quarterback. That was answered emphatically by Seth Russell, until that answer was undone on a stormy homecoming day against Iowa State.
In his place stodd freshman Jarrett Stidham, one of the most highly deocrated and anticipated recruits in Baylor history. Stidham would lead the Bears to close out that Iowa State win, and then go on the road to tough out a victory against Kansas State. Then another storm would hit, with Oklahoma coming into town along with more rain. In those dreary conditions, Stidham would injure his back, and the Bears would lose a tight and hard fought game to the Sooners at home.
The Bears were physically and emotionally battered after that game heading into a tough road contest against Oklahoma State. In the Bears most dominant game of the year, they ran all over Oklahoma State to win convingly in Stillwater for the first time since 1939. Stidham though would be lost for the regular season, due to a broken bone in his foot. In his place stood former wide recevier/tight end Chris Johnson. The sophomore quarterback came out on fire against OSU, and gave the Bears hope as they entered a rivalry game with TCU.
2. More storms awaited them in Fort Worth though, as the DFW area was attacked by rain and storms for 3 straight days as the game approached. With TCU one of only three teams playing on a natural grass field, mud was not only expected but guaranteed. The Frogs came into the game injured and angry as well, with multiple star players and starters lost for the year. Senior quarterback Trevone Boykin had missed their previous game against Kansas, and came into the Baylor game as a big question mark.
It didn't matter. Everyone knew Boykin would play, injured or not. How effective he would be was the only question that remained. They would have their senior starter under center, while the Bears would have a redshirt sophomore making his first career start. Even with Boykin severely limited by the ankle injury, his advantage in experience was huge for TCU. Two plays decided that game, with Chris Johnson fumbles on both. The first, a fumble in the 2nd quarter that was returned for a game tying touchdown by TCU. The second, a fumble on the lone possession for either team in the second half that dared to enter field goal territory.
It was the experienced Boykin that did the little things, didn't kill the Frogs, and kept them in the game until overtime. Johnson struggled all night with the pass, completing just 1 pass after halftime, a touchdown to Devin Chafin in overtime. Baylor went more than 2 quarters without a completed pass. For the best offense in the nation, that is just astounding.
3. With a win over Texas this Saturday though, the Bears would finish 2nd in the Big 12, due to tiebreaker rules as Baylor, Oklahoma State, and TCU would all finish 7-2 in conference play. Due to head-to-head margin of victory advantage over TCU, and their victory over OSU, the Bears would be 2nd, and be selected for the Sugar Bowl. It is a tremendous consolation prize, for a team that had much higher goals.
On paper, this is the most talented and experienced Baylor team that Art Briles has ever put on the field. National title hopes were real, not just the crazy notions of fanboys. With a healthy Seth Russell leading the way, you can easily envision wins over Oklahoma and TCU. That is not to gaurantee a victory over either, and no one can ever throw "health" issues at the 2015 TCU team. That doesn't stop many from having that feeling, that with a fall without El Nino drowning out Texas all fall, this year could have been different.
With better weather during homecoming, the Bears continue to build that 35-0 lead, and don't have Russell in the game late. That changes everything for the Oklahoma game, which also was marred by some ugly weather. The conditions for the TCU game though were much worse then either, with a torrential downpour for most of the game, and awful playing field, neither team could do anything of substance. The biggest plays of the 2nd half were a blocked punt and a tipped punt. That is all that happened.
I don't know if TCU is better than Baylor, or if Baylor is better than TCU. It is impossible to decipher from whatever that was on Friday night. It sure wasn't football though. But don't take that as an excuse. TCU won the game. They deserved to win in overtime, as they took the chances needed to win. They threw the ball into the endzone and got the ball to their electic playmakers in space, while Corey Coleman touched the ball 3-times for the Bears.
4. There will be many Baylor fans disapointed by this year. A loss to rival TCU, and two losses in Big 12 conference play are things we haven't seen in a few years. However, for it to be disapointing that Baylor didn't win the Big 12 is simply amazing. For it to be disapointing that Baylor coulnd't win their 3rd consecutive title is a minor miracle. If Baylor defeats Texas and wins their bowl game, they will have an 11-2 season for the 3rd year in a row. For a team that won 11 games COMBINED from 2000-2003, that is just shocking. Baylor might not get to stand on a podium and hoist a trophy over their head this Saturday, but these are still the glory years for Baylor football. Enjoy them, even if Baylor "only" wins 10 or 11 games.
5. Ranking the Big 12
- Oklahoma State
- West Virginia
- Texas Tech
- Kansas State
- Iowa State