Go 9-0 in the Big 12 and you’re in.
That is how Baylor is approaching the current setup of a 10-team Big 12, a three-game non-conference schedule and the new College Football Playoff.
In 2014, the defending Big 12 champs will play SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo (road game) before kicking off its league slate on Sept. 27 at Iowa State. Dick Vitale would not be amused as by all means, that is football’s version of “cupcake city, baby!”
However when asked about a traditionally soft non-conference schedule that the Bears have feasted on while building a championship program, head coach Art Briles saw no need to defend the early-season bouts last week at the Big 12’s annual media days.
“The way I’ve looked at it is, you want to get in the Final Four and win the Big 12 and go unscathed,” Briles said. “You do that, you go 9‑0 in the Big 12, you’re going to be in the Final Four because you’re going to beat probably two top 10 teams, probably two others in the top 20, and maybe another top 25, which is what we faced last year. That’s a resumé that’s good enough to match any other conference, because other conferences with the cross‑over games aren’t getting that kind of competition week in/week out like we are in the Big 12.”
Transition: Playing nine Big 12 games is tough enough. We are going all in on running the table in league play – something the school has never done before.
He is right. In most years, that should get a Big 12 team in, regardless of what its non-conference schedule looks like. Baylor believes this to be the case so more power to the folks in Waco for going this route. They are simply minimizing risk in the non-con. Instead of having to worry about clawing its way through 12 games, Baylor essentially only has to worry about nine. The all but guaranteed 3-0 start is fine and dandy but being able to rest starters so often in September is often critical in October and November during the grind of a grueling round-robin Big 12 slate.
This conversation really has a pretty simple conclusion: With a non-conference schedule like that going forward, one league loss will (in most years) be enough to keep this surging program out of the playoff.
Is it fair that Baylor will play those slouches while Texas will see BYU and UCLA? Absolutely not. But when has college football ever been fair? Perhaps the new four-team playoff will rule against the Bears at some point in time? Perhaps this new selection committee will serve as an equalizer from that standpoint?
Baylor likely realizes the risk it is taking and up until now, they appear to be very comfortable taking it.
Good for them. But nobody in Waco has the right to complain if Baylor ends the season at 11-1 and is on the outside looking in come January.