Sports Take: Ranking Baylor football’s Big 12 rivalries, part 1

Baylor football players warm up in preparation for home opener against Texas Southern University on September 11, 2021. Lariat file photo.

By Jonah Kramer | Guest Contributor

From the moment they step foot on campus for Line Camp, Baylor students quickly learn which schools they are supposed to despise. Countless shots at Texas Christian University, jokes about Texas Tech University’s academic rigor – or lack thereof – and the horns down hand signal to spite the University of Texas are fun jests that subconsciously build the sense of rivalry within first-year Bears.

Conference realignment threatens the fabric of rivalries as we know it, as regular athletic matches between Baylor and SEC-bound schools Texas and the University of Oklahoma are soon to be a thing of the past. It appears that the exodus of the Longhorns and Sooners is just the beginning of a massive shift in the landscape of college athletics.

But at least for this year, the traditional Big 12, with its eight original members and the two who joined in 2012, TCU and West Virginia University, remains intact. While emphasis is placed on every Big 12 matchup, certain foes gain a little extra attention from coaches, players and fans. Baylor has a unique history with each inner-conference school, so I ranked them one-through-nine in terms of rivalry with the green and gold.

Rivalry is a difficult concept to define, but there are three key factors that contribute to animosity between schools in my eyes:

  1. Football: The activity on campus that garners attention to the point that even people who don’t normally like sports will attend the games. Defined as “competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field,” rivalry is perfectly represented by football teams clashing against one another, their entire institution cheering them on and even counting on them to generate revenue for the school.
  2. Location: The proximity between two schools plays into their desire to beat one another and prove their dominance in the region. Location also fuels academic competition between institutions, as they vie for the best and brightest students.
  3. Conference History: The longer two schools have shared a conference, the richer the history between them and the greater a fan base’s desire to beat said school.

With that, here are schools seven-through-nine on my list:

9. WVU

The West Virginia Mountaineers joined the Big 12 in 2012 at the same time as TCU, but Baylor’s history with the two schools could not be any different.

The Bears and Mountaineers have only played 10 football games against one another, and the schools are separated by 1310 miles, a car trip would take roughly 19 hours.

It is difficult for fan bases to get riled up about facing a team who they have just begun to see on a regular basis and who is so far away. The distance between Waco and Morgantown may have an impact on the outcomes of games, as out of the 10 meetings, nine have been won by the home team. Baylor has yet to beat WVU on the road but will have on opportunity to do so on October 13th.

8. Iowa State University

Beyond one meeting in 1988, Baylor and their conference counterpart in the northern half of the U.S. share no football history prior to Big 12 play. Even since the conference’s creation, the Cyclones and Bears have not played every year because they played in different divisions up until 2011 when the Big 12 opted for a division-less conference.

While four of the last six final scores between the two teams have been separated by one possession, including the last three, the games have not held the same significance as Baylor’s recent contests against the Oklahoma schools or even Kansas State.

7. Kansas State University

Both the Wildcats and Bears carried rivalries with them into the Big 12, just not with each other. Kansas State held rich traditions with fellow former Big 8 members transitioning to the Big 12, Kansas and Iowa State.

But Baylor and Kansas State would soon develop some football history of their own, with a stretch of contests between 2011 and 2014 standing out as a thrilling set of high stakes games between the Wildcats and Bears in an all-time series that Baylor leads 10-8.

In 2011, the Wildcats came back from a 9 point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Bears 36-35 in a game between two teams who ultimately finished the season with 10-3 records.

The next season, Kansas State traveled to Floyd Casey Stadium undefeated and ranked number one in the country. The Bears entered the game with a 4-5 record, clearly the underdogs. Not only did Baylor win the game, but they blew out the Wildcats 52-24. It was a turning point in the 2012 season for Baylor, as they won their final three games finishing 8-5.

2014 marked the most highly anticipated matchup between Baylor and Kansas State in the short history between the schools. In the inaugural season of McLane Stadium, the Wildcats and Bears, both ranked in the top-10, met for the final regular season game. Baylor won the matchup, which was featured on ESPN’s College GameDay, earning its 11th win of the season.

Be sure to check back next week, when the fourth, fifth and sixth rankings will be released.