By Joshua Davis, Sports Writer
Over the past four seasons, Baylor has won 21 of its last 22 games played in Texas. During that stretch, the Bears have been tabbed the most successful team in Texas with a win percentage of .769 (40-12 overall).
Baylor head coach Art Briles has made it a priority to be the top football program in the state. Senior wide receiver Jay Lee is one of many players to have bought into the system.
“We want to be known as the top powerhouse in the state of Texas,” Lee said. “We take pride in that, and every day we preach about it. That’s one of our goals: to win the state of Texas. That’s what we’re here to do.”
The Bears have owned the Lone Star State recently by dominating in-state foes. Baylor has won the previous eight games versus teams located in Texas.
The Bears are confident that this season will be no different from the last four years.
“We’re going to win this state,” Lee said. “Being that this is the first game, it’s always good to go out there and solidify a good win. Most of the guys here on the team come from the state of Texas and from the Dallas area, so just knowing that we get the best recruits each and every year [is exciting] … and we get to go out and fight with each other and get good wins.”
Another Dallas area native, sophomore linebacker Taylor Young, is looking forward to playing close to home and on the national stage.
“Everybody has just been ready to go. Everybody is ready to show up and show out against SMU,” Young said. “That’s been the vibe around here.”
Briles said there will be added emphasis on Friday’s game with it being against an in-state opponent.
Though it is common knowledge to Briles, he said he wasn’t sure if many of his current players knew the history of the Southwest Conference rivalry between Baylor and SMU.
Briles expanded on his excitement towards having two former Southwest Conference rivals on the Bears’ schedule this season. The Bears play Rice next week, another former member of the SWC.
“[SMU and Rice] used to be Southwest Conference games. I think it’s good for the state of Texas,” Briles said.
Moving into the Big 12 Conference has given the Bears an edge over the former Southwestern Conference rivals. Baylor is 7-0 in those games since 1996 – 4-0 vs. SMU and 3-0 vs. Rice.
Many college football analysts believe the talent discrepancy to be widespread as Baylor comes in as a 35 point favorite over SMU. Briles disregards that number and knows the atmosphere will be electric Friday night. Briles said he doesn’t care about the point spread, as long as they get a win.
“We know it’s going to be a lively atmosphere,” Briles said. “We’re expecting a full house. I know their fans will be excited. It’s so hard to get wins in this business. I’ll take 3-2 right now and walk out happy.”
The Bears kick off their season at 6 p.m. Friday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas to take on the SMU Mustangs. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.