As we start to get a glimpse of the finish line in a crazy college football season, here are a few items you can take to the bank and some others to track during the November stretch run:
• In Texas, the 2013 season is going green. If it finishes that way, even longtime fans in the Lone Star State will be in for quite a history lesson.
No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) and North Texas (7-3, 5-1 in Conference USA), the state’s only green-clad FBS schools, are both bowl-eligible and control their destinies in their respective league championship races. If both close with conference titles, it will be the first time that has happened in the same season since 1994, when Baylor shared the Southwest Conference title and UNT claimed the Southland Conference championship.
Even more rare: Both teams project to receive bowl bids in the same season for the first time since 1948. The 1948 season marks the only time Baylor and UNT played in bowl games in the same year: Baylor defeated Wake Forest 20-7 in the Dixie Bowl. UNT fell to Nevada 13-6 in the Salad Bowl.
• Sunday’s climb to fourth in both the coaches’ poll and Harris poll could have positive implications for Baylor in the national title race if No. 1 Alabama (9-0) or No. 2 Florida State (9-0) stumbles down the stretch.
Both polls are part of the BCS formula and, as of Sunday, Baylor trails No. 3 Ohio State (9-0) by only 25 points in the coaches’ poll and 69 points in the Harris poll. If similar separation remains on ballots through Dec. 8, Baylor may jump Ohio State in the final BCS standings because the Bears will receive a spike in their computer rankings from late-season matchups against Texas Tech (7-3), No. 12 Oklahoma State (8-1) and No. 24 Texas (7-2).
Ohio State’s lone remaining opponent with a winning record is Michigan (6-3), although the Buckeyes could meet No. 16 Michigan State (8-1) in the Big Ten championship game.
• Regardless of what the final BCS formula dictates, the fact that a Baylor-Ohio State comparison is relevant in November lends weight to the September opinion of Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn. The Bulls (7-2, 5-0 in MAC) began the season with road losses to Ohio State, 40-20, and Baylor, 70-13, before racking up seven consecutive victories to take over first place in the MAC East Division.
After the loss in Waco, Quinn said of Baylor: “They are deserving to be in the top five right now, in my opinion. I felt good about last week’s game against Ohio State, but… we weren’t even close to the way I felt we would hold up against Baylor.”
Baylor men’s basketball coach Scott Drew understands the significance of what football coach Art Briles’ team is doing. Drew, who has led the Bears to a pair of Elite Eight finishes and watched the women’s team win two national titles in the past decade, said Briles’ squad has captured the campus’ attention like no other team he has seen. Particularly during Thursday’s 41-12 rout of then-No. 10 Oklahoma.
“I can tell you we’ve never been more excited about a sport at Baylor,” Drew said after Friday’s 72-60 victory over Colorado. “The whole school is excited about our football team. All our voices were hoarse [Friday] from all the yelling.”
• Navy (5-4) is one win away from securing its first bowl trip to Fort Worth. If the Midshipmen win Saturday against South Alabama (3-5), they will accept an invitation to play Dec. 30 in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium against a team from the Mountain West.
• No one does stadium renovations like Texas A&M. Within hours after the Aggies (8-2, 4-2 SEC) wrapped up their home schedule with Saturday’s 51-41 victory over Mississippi State, earth movers were ripping up the turf as part of the school’s $450 million renovation project while reporters finished work in the press box. By Sunday afternoon, all the turf had disappeared, with plans to be sold in souvenir chunks. Physical renovations to the east side of the stadium are slated to start Monday.
• Texas coach Mack Brown’s title quest became tougher with Sunday’s news that the Longhorns (7-2, 6-0 in Big 12) lost two of their best players to season-ending injuries in Saturday’s 47-40 overtime victory over West Virginia. Tailback Johnathan Gray (Achilles tendon) and defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee) will undergo season-ending surgeries, team trainers said. Gray, a sophomore from Aledo, led the Longhorns in rushing (780 yards, four TDs). Brown’s future at the school could hinge on how well the replacements perform down the stretch.
• The Big 12 could have its first four-way tie for a league championship with the following collection of results down the strech: Texas Tech over Baylor (Saturday), Oklahoma State over Texas (Saturday), Oklahoma State over Baylor (Nov. 23), Baylor over Texas (Dec. 7) and Oklahoma over Oklahoma State (Dec. 7). With those results and no additional upsets, four teams would finish as league co-champs with 7-2 conference records: Baylor, Texas, OU, OSU.