By Cody Soto
When a fan talks about the seventh-ranked Baylor Bears football team during their lunch hour, the College Football Playoff is going to be in the conversation.
Head coach Art Briles and the Bears have the opportunity to make their case during the season’s final three games, two of which are at McLane Stadium and the other at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Since the installation of the new postseason system, Baylor started at No. 13 after its 41-27 loss at West Virginia on Oct. 18. Four weeks later, the Bears have jumped six spots to be ranked No. 7 in the nation.
One conversation that has been at the mouths of many Baylor and TCU fans is this: Who deserves to be in front, and who deserves to make the first college playoff?
Unlike Baylor Nation, the football team isn’t discussing the playoff among themselves.
“We’re winning to try to win a Big 12 Championship. That’s our mission; that’s our goal,” Briles said. “Whatever comes with it comes with it, but that’s where our focus and energy is, and I don’t need a calculator to figure it out.”
The four-team playoff method is a narrow field, and only four football teams will be included in the inaugural postseason system. The best way for the Bears to be one of those teams is if they keep on winning, senior quarterback Bryce Petty said.
“You can’t get into the playoffs if you don’t win, so these next three games are huge for us,” Petty said. “People remember November, so this is where we have to be really good and we have to execute.”
With Baylor and TCU in a similar situation, the Bears and Horned Frogs need to win out in order to have a Big 12 team represented in the playoff.
Winning the next three games is the focus for Baylor football, and each game is crucial to the Bears’ playoff campaign, Petty said.
“I think it’s that one week at a time, one game at a time kind of mentality,” Petty said. “We can’t get to the championship if we don’t win this week, so that’s what is most important for me and the most important for the leadership on this team: to make sure each guy takes this game seriously.”
Senior offensive tackle Spencer Drango said while the team needs to win each remaining game to have the chance to make the playoff, the decision would not be made until Dec. 7.
“If we take care of our business up front and win every game, then the rankings will take care of itself,” Drango said. “It’s an opinion for everyone else. I don’t know what goes into the rankings for the selection committee, so in the end I think it will take care of itself.”
Running up the score on opponents isn’t necessarily a way they will move up in rankings. Instead, it’s the team’s performance that counts, Drango said.
“Our offense does score a lot of points,” Drango said. “I don’t think we try to run up the score on anybody, but we do score a lot because of our offense. However, because it is opinion-based, it’s a week-to-week process and the best teams are at the top. The better you play, the better you should be ranked.”
While the playoff talk is almost unavoidable on a college campus, senior receiver Levi Norwood isn’t letting the conversation get to his head.
“Everybody keeps track of it a little bit, but there is a difference between tracking it and focusing on it,” Norwood said. “For us, we are just keeping track of it. Our focus is on Oklahoma State.”
As the Baylor Bears prepare for Oklahoma State on Saturday, winning is their priority, and that will be their goal for the next three weeks. The final poll that comes out on Dec. 7 is what matters, Briles said.