Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
The Baylor Bear football team could accidentally go 11-1 this regular season. Obviously winning games is no accident, yet I find no better word in a year where the Big 12 could see more parity than the infamous 2007 season in which Kansas (yes, Kansas) finished 12-1 and defeated No. 3 Virginia Tech in its only BCS bowl victory in school history.
While the conference as a whole may be more dramatic than the most recent installment of “The Bachelorette,” this year’s Baylor squad differs greatly from the 2007 team that was quarterbacked by Blake Szymanski, who threw a Big XII -leading 18 interceptions and guided the Bears to a 3-9 record that assisted a 14 year stretch without more than five wins in a single season.
This season’s group is not just exponentially better than the 2007 squad, but the Bears have the potential to ride a deadly passing attack and experienced defense all the way to the Big 12 championship game — just hear me out.
Breaking down the 2019 schedule, Charlie Brewer and company are obviously heavy favorites against the likes of Stephen F. Austin, UTSA, Rice, West Virginia and Kansas. At this point, Baylor has an 82% chance or better of winning each of those contests individually, according to ESPN.
Yet parity is found in the remaining seven games on the docket that take place against Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. We can start with analyzing the top three teams from this group.
Baylor, coming off last year’s bowl win in coach Matt Rhule’s second season, has arguably the easiest conference schedule makeup in a round-robin league like the Big 12. The evidence of this lies in McLane Stadium playing host to the only three conference teams ranked in the preseason top 25, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 10 Texas and No. 21 Iowa State. We’ll say, as the optimistic Bear supporters that we are, Baylor is able to pull off an upset win in two of these three thanks to a few rowdy nights on the Brazos. That, coupled with the five wins in games that Baylor is heavily favored, puts the green and gold at a record of 7-1 in those eight contests.
The remaining four games that we are missing need a bit more breakdown considering they, like most of the schedule, are highly volatile.
Let’s start the detailed analysis with the fifth Saturday of Baylor football that sees the Bears travel to Kansas State coming off of an upset win against #21 Iowa State in Waco. Baylor will march in at 4-0 against a Wildcat squad that should come into the game at a record of 2-2 in Chris Klieman’s first year in Manhattan. Most analysts will give Baylor the nod in its first true road test that boosts the Bears to 5-0.
The next toss-up game comes the following week against Texas Tech in Waco. This game is borderline a guaranteed win, as ESPN gives Baylor a 73% chance of victory.
I project that the Red Raiders limp into McLane coming off two straight losses under first year head coach Matt Wells only to be blown out by a 5-0 Bears team that is cracking into top 25 polls. Baylor will be an undefeated 6-0 in the first half of the year, and if you’re keeping up with the maze of analysis, this puts coach Rhule and the Bears at 9-1 in the games that have been broken down with two tough games left to settle.
The first of these tossups comes immediately after trouncing Texas Tech. Baylor will take a 6-0 record into Stillwater to face an Oklahoma State team that will likely be sitting at 5-1. At this point, both programs will be in the top 25 polls and this will make for a high stakes battle between two ranked teams.
Why on earth would Baylor get the edge in a road game against a top 25 opponent? The Cowboys don’t have a quarterback. Mike Gundy is still a man, but he’s far removed from being 40 and has so much uncertainty in the QB position that he has yet to even name a starter. Brewer puts on a show, and the Bears go into their second bye week at 7-0.
After a blowout win over West Virginia on Halloween night, we have just one more game to dissect as Rhule and his bruins boldly charge into the Holy War at 8-0 to face a likely 6-2 Horned Frog army.
Can the Bears sneak a victory? I don’t know about you, but I like their chances.
TCU, like Oklahoma State, has little certainty at quarterback. By this time, Brewer will be in the Heisman discussion and fry up the Frogs to propel Baylor to 9-0 for the second time in school history. Subsequently, Baylor will likely host ESPN’s College Gameday in Waco the following week for a showdown with Oklahoma. Even if you count this as a loss, I tab the Bears with winning out against Texas at home and Kansas on the road.
There you have it. While unlikely, it is very possible to see the Baylor football team finish with 11 wins and one loss come December. This feat will surely punch their ticket into the top 10 national rankings and land them with a spot in the Big 12championship game.
Honestly, as long as we’re talking hypothetically, Baylor could even win the conference championship game and land a spot in the four-team playoff. If you think about it long enough, a national title win isn’t even too far out of reach at this point. Maybe I’m just an optimistic Bear fan, or maybe there’s a realistic method to my madness.
*Please appreciate the intentional pun placed here.
Considering the rivalry between the Horned Frogs of TCU and Bears of Baylor is called the Holy War, I not only reference TCU as an army to play on the term war, but a group of frogs is also classified as an army. Don’t worry about patting me on the back for this, I’ve already taken care of it.