By Tyler Alley
The No. 25 Baylor football team seeks its sixth win and second-straight bowl bid this weekend when it plays the Kansas Jayhawks (2-7, 0-6) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.
Head coach Art Briles said this game is no bigger than the previous five wins.
“You have to win the first five (games) first,” Briles said. “Every game is a huge game. We have done a good enough job to put us in position. We understand it is going to be a tough road. When you line up in conference play, they’re all tough. It makes no difference who, when or where.”
Baylor (5-3, 2-3) reached bowl eligibility last season during its homecoming game against Kansas State, the eighth game of the season. This season, the Bears have faced a tougher schedule, having to play three tough teams on the road.
A win against Kansas Saturday would earn the Bears their first road win of the season. Junior quarterback Robert Griffin III said the team has their winless road record on their minds.
“It’s not a mental block, but it’s definitely a point of focus,” Griffin said. “We realize that we have not won on the road, and we have to do that. The great teams do it, the good teams do it, and we want to be a part of that. So we’re not taking Kansas lightly. We know that they play extremely well at home, as most teams do. It’s our job to go take it because it’s not going to be given to us.”
The team may be taking the Jayhawks seriously, but from an outside perspective Kansas’ record and play so far is working against them.
By himself, Griffin averages more yards per game than the Kansas offense; Griffin ranks second nationally with 395.88 yards per game, while Kansas as a team averages merely 306.8 yards per game, last place in the Big 12.
Griffin also ranks second nationally in points responsibility, with 22.75 per game, outscoring the Jayhawks again, as they only average 18.3 points per game. Stats aside, the Baylor defense is not overlooking this Kansas team.
“We’re going to approach it like we do every other game,” senior inside linebacker Elliot Coffey said. “We’re going to go out, and I think it’s what we try to do every week, is try to exploit the weaknesses of the offense and go out and play hard and hit hard.”
Kansas’ defense has not done anything to help its struggling offense. The Jayhawks rank last in the Big 12 in yards allowed and points allowed. Baylor’s second-ranked offense looks to capitalize and continue its offensive scoring dominance. Half of Baylor’s scoring drives have taken less than two minutes, including 12 scoring drives of less than one minute.
Even with the obvious mismatch, senior running back Terrance Ganaway echoed his quarterback’s message of not treating this as an easy game, especially with the current road record.
“[It’s a] hostile environment, on the road,” Ganaway said. “It’s always going to mess up the plans. People trying to get ready to go, with the flight, with the focus. We’ve got to pay a lot more attention to detail when we go places. It’s easy to get distracted. So just handling our business, being Baylor and just be you, BU.”
With No. 6 Oklahoma coming into town the following week, some may view Kansas as a trap game for the Bears. The prospect of the becoming bowl eligible, however, should keep the Bears focused on the Jayhawks, and Briles said Kansas is still a Big 12 team, making it a tough opponent.
“It’s going to be a tough football game and we’re going to have to play our best to have a chance to win,” Briles said. “We’re going to have to go up there and play the best game we’ve played all year to have a chance to come out there with a victory.”
The meeting will be the 11th between Baylor and Kansas, with Baylor leading the series 6-4, including last year’s 55-7 victory at Floyd Casey Stadium.
The game will not be televised but can be heard on the radio at ESPN Central Texas.