Don’t take that headline the wrong way. No, I don’t think Kansas can upend Baylor, but the Jayhawks stand a chance to shake things up in the playoff picture if only out of common courtesy from the Bears.
Baylor head coach Art Briles has said repeatedly that his team is going to run full sprint no matter the competition — as he said heading into the game against Lamar.
“Usain Bolt isn’t going to go out there and run a 10.27 because the competition isn’t strong. He’s going to run a 9.91 or a 9.19. He’s going to run his best. Competitors, they play. They perform.”
Briles has a way with allegory, that’s for sure.
What’s not certain is just how true his statement is considering Baylor’s margin of victory that has been a “mere” nation-leading 38.7 points per game against FBS opponents. The feeling around Waco is that this team should be averaging at least one more touchdown per game. Most recently Baylor seemed to put the brakes on Texas Tech this past weekend.
As we witnessed last year with the roaring debate about whether TCU, Baylor, or Ohio State should nab the final playoff spot, TCU beating Tech 82-27 wasn’t enough to put the Frogs into the playoffs. Baylor’s 63-35 victory may not be enough, either. For any other team besides a Big 12 team (half of the conference makes up the nation’s top ten offenses), this would be a great advantage. But as evidenced by Baylor’s 10 first-place votes (its most ever) in the AP poll, perception is at an all-time high.
The hype surrounding Baylor has the Bears as 44-point favorites over the Jayhawks. I’m not saying Baylor will cover that spread or not. What I am saying is that perception might dip because Baylor decides to call the dogs off early, not wanting to risk injury to its star players. Or Baylor comfortably covers the spread but then looks like the conference bully.
Baylor already suffered enough bad PR from the Sam Ukwuachu case this summer and multiple league violations from the staff. Looking like a team that has no moral grounds may be detrimental, as I can personally attest to fan bases attacking each other for teams being “classless.” Hanging a 60-point victory on a Jayhawks team that is fighting to have a high school caliber roster will look just as bad as scheduling an FCS opponent like Lamar this season and Northwestern State last year.
It’s inevitable, as the Big 12 plays a round robin tournament. Every team plays the other nine teams, but don’t tell that to the people in charge of analyzing every facet of a team. It may be a stretch, but Kansas, which is now down to its third-string quarterback, looks like a bye week as this point. Considering Baylor has two off weeks this season with no conference title game, every game counts.
The scarier thought is that the Jayhawks actually come out with gloves on and fight to the finish as they did when TCU rolled into town last season as heavy favorites but narrowly escaped with a four-point victory. Any flaw, whether it be a Seth Russell interception or Orion Stewart getting burned for a touchdown early in the first quarter will be scrutinized.
Baylor is under one of the nation’s largest microscope now. This needs to be a flawless game.
This is a trap game in the weirdest sense of the term. Maybe this is being read into far too much, but with little precedence to how the playoff committee will react to a game like this, it’s best to expect the worst.