Sports Take: Ranking Baylor football’s Big 12 rivalries, part 2

Baylor's defense suffocated the University of Albany's defense, holding it to 10 points on Sept. 3, 2022 at McLane Stadium. Matt Ellett | Roundup

By Jonah Kramer | Guest Contributor

In case you missed part one, here is the premise of my column:

Baylor football 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.
Photo courtesy of Matt Ellett
Baylor football gets amped up before the ensuing possession against UAlbany on Sept. 3, 2022 at McLane Stadium. Matt Ellett | Roundup

It’s been a week since seven-through-nine were published, so here are schools four-through-six on my list:

6. The University of Kansas

If competitive football games were the only consideration of this list, Kansas would be dead last. The Bears have beaten the Jayhawks 12 times in a row, averaging a 36-point margin of victory.

KU and Baylor aren’t particularly close geographically, nor were they conference opponents until 1996, but there is another factor placing the Jayhawks first among Big 12 schools not in or bordering Texas on this list. Kansas’ domination in men’s basketball combined with Baylor’s rise to prominence under head coach Scott Drew creates competition between the universities in the second revenue sport.

The Jayhawks boast 20 conference regular season titles, well ahead of the next closest team, the University of Texas, who holds 3. In 2019, Kansas and Baylor finished first and second respectively in the Big 12 before the Bears flipped the script in 2020, beating out Kansas for their first ever conference championship ahead of an eventual 2021 National Championship. Last season, the two programs tied atop the standings, each earning a share of the Big 12 crown.

Photo courtesy of Matt Ellett
Sophomore wide receiver Hal Presley comes down with a 38-yard touchdown reception against UAlbany on Sept. 3, 2022 at McLane Stadium. Matt Ellett | Roundup

5. The University of Oklahoma

Although the Bears have to cross state lines to play the Sooners, Norman is actually closer to Waco than Lubbock. But unlike the top four schools on this list, the OU-Baylor rivalry is fairly new. Besides a stretch during the first four years of the Southwest conference, Oklahoma and Baylor were not conference opponents until the Big 12’s initiation.

Despite the overall lopsidedness of a series that Oklahoma leads 28-4, recent meetings have been much more entertaining. Oklahoma and Baylor met twice in 2019, the first matchup pitting two top-fifteen teams in Waco, with a visit from ESPN College Gameday, signifying the national anticipation of the matchup. The Sooners overcame a 28-3 second quarter deficit, beating Baylor 34-31.

The two teams met for a rematch in the Big 12 Championship game three weeks later, with both teams fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Bears fell short of redemption, falling 30-23 in overtime.

The fresh rivalry gained traction last season when the two schools once again clashed in a top-15 battle. The Bears emerged victorious, holding the Sooners’ offense, which finished the year averaging just shy of 40 points a game, to 14 points. The Baylor students stormed the field in celebration of the Bears’ first win over the Sooners since 2014.

As with Texas, Oklahoma’s withdrawal from the Big 12 will certainly hurt the Bears’ rivalry with the Sooners. Even a slew of thrilling games between the schools the past few years may not be enough to maintain the animosity, considering they will no longer annually play.

Photo courtesy of Matt Ellett
Sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen warms up his arm ahead of Baylor football's home opener against UAlbany on Sept. 3, 2022 at McLane Stadium. Matt Ellett | Roundup

4. Oklahoma State University

The Cowboys and Bears both played in the SWC from 1915-1924 before OSU left for the Missouri Valley and the schools weren’t reunited until the Big 12’s formation in 1996. The teams played eight times as non-conference opponents during that stretch, including in the Bluebonnet Bowl played at the Houston Astrodome in 1983. This is to say that there was familiarity between the schools even before meeting up in the Big 12.

The Cowboys lead the overall football series 22-19, including a 19-8 streak since the beginning of the Big 12. In general, OSU and Baylor do not play each other very closely, with only three of the 27 Big 12 games between the two decided by one possession. Last year’s Big 12 Championship game was a major exception, as the Bears beat the Cowboys 21-16 on a goal-line stand for the ages. The Oct. 1 rematch at McLane Stadium this season is a highly anticipated game, with both teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25.

Be sure to check back next week, when the top-three will be uncovered.