At this point in a breakthrough season, each week offers an opportunity for a fresh milestone in the Baylor football program.
No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0 in Big 12) already has secured its loftiest BCS perch in school history, as well as its only 8-0 start to any football season, heading into Saturday’s 6 p.m. showdown with Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3) at AT&T Stadium.
The Bears’ unprecedented success has college football analysts, as well as Baylor fans, speculating about the team’s opportunity to reach the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif. A study released this week by PredictonMachine.com, based on multiple computer-generated simulations of title contenders’ remaining games and potential postseason matchups, gave Baylor a 36.9 percent chance of finishing with a 12-0 record and a 22.7 percent chance of playing in the BCS title game.
Among national championship contenders, only No. 1 Alabama (65.2 pct.) and No. 2 Florida State (65.6 pct.) received better odds than Baylor to make it to the title game at the Rose Bowl. The simulations gave Baylor a 36 percent chance to beat Alabama and a 42 percent chance to beat Florida State if either of those matchups materialize.
Such speculation marks uncharted territory for a Baylor football program that has not won a conference title since 1980 and never has been in the national title discussion this late in any prior season. But players insist the buzz about what might happen in January has not become a distraction that could impact what happens Saturday in AT&T Stadium, where Baylor will arrive as a 27-point favorite.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the best or the worst. You always have something to prove,” quarterback Bryce Petty said. “Having that mentality going in each and every week has been a point of emphasis. That’s why we’ve done so good and we have to keep that up. I don’t think it would matter if we were ranked No. 4, No. 24 or No. 1. We’re going to come out prepared and ready to go.”
Baylor coach Art Briles chuckled when asked if he worried about his players looking past Tech because the contest is sandwiched between last week’s 41-12 rout of then-No. 10 Oklahoma and next week’s game at No. 12 Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1). Briles quickly shot down any talk of a potential “trap” game.
“Not at all. The trap is thinking it might be a trap,” Briles said, citing the Bears’ 2-16 record in the team’s last 18 meetings against Tech as reason for players to stay grounded. “In the Big 12, every game is critical and every opponent is a worthy opponent. Tech has the same players on the field they had three weeks ago when they were ranked No. 10 in the country.”
Baylor, on the other hand, probably will play without three significant playmakers in the team’s point-per-minute offense that leads the nation in scoring (61.0 points per game). Receiver Tevin Reese (dislocated wrist), who averages an NCAA-best 25 yards per catch, will miss the remainder of the regular season. The team’s top two running backs, Lache Seastrunk (groin) and Glasco Martin (knee), missed practices this week, thrusting Baylor’s ground-game focus on freshman Shock Linwood, who is expected to make his first college start against Tech.
Briles said the Bears’ roster, for the past year, has included “Big 12 quality depth” but Saturday’s game will mark Baylor’s most severe test to date in backing that claim. Asked about the importance of Linwood and other reserves stepping up against Tech, Briles said: “It’s something that’s going to have to happen. What we’ve got to do is figure out who we’re going to lean on, how we’re going to lean on them and when we’re going to lean on them. That’s the situation.”
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose team has battled its own recent run of injuries to key defenders, indicated he has seen evidence of ample depth when studying Baylor videotapes. Asked about the Bears’ weaknesses, Kingsbury said: “Still trying to find them. They’re solid in every phase and playing with a ton of confidence right now.”
Baylor linebacker Eddie Lackey said the Bears will approach each of their four remaining games as a “one-week season” in efforts to minimize getting sidetracked by the BCS big picture.
“We’re really excited for the respect that we are finally getting,” Lackey said. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves or get caught up in the media and the hype. So we’re doing a bunch of one-week seasons. I haven’t heard anyone on our team talk about us being in the top five in the BCS. That’s the cool thing about our team. We’re humble about it. We’re ready to keep this thing going and excited to see what the rest of the season has to offer.”
Baylor vs. Texas Tech
6 p.m. Saturday, AT&T Stadium
Head to head
|Points per game||61||37.8|
|3rd down conv.||52.7||46.4|
|Def. 3rd down conv.||31.7%||33.3%|
No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0 in Big 12) heads into Saturday’s game against Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3) as one of six undefeated FBS teams in the national title chase. Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com has run computer simulations on those teams to determine the mathematical odds of each school finishing undefeated and playing for a BCS title. Baylor received the third-best odds to reach the BCS National Championship Game (22.7 percent), behind No. 1 Alabama (65.2) and No. 2 Florida State (65.6). A breakdown of the Baylor findings:
Chance to finish undefeated: 36.9 pct.
Chance to play in BCS title game: 22.7 pct.
Chance of Baylor-Alabama title game: 8.3 pct.
Chance of Baylor-Florida State title game: 8.4 pct.
Chance of Baylor-Ohio State title game: 2.1 pct.
BCS title matchup vs. Alabama: Alabama wins 64 pct. of simulations
BCS title matchup vs. Florida State: FSU wins 58 pct. of simulations
BCS title matchup vs. Ohio State: Baylor wins 59 pct. of simulations
Chance of 4 unbeatens (Ala, FSU, Baylor, OSU) in final BCS: 7.6 pct.
Chance of zero unbeatens in final BCS: 1.0 pct.
Chance of one-loss team playing for BCS title: 24.7 pct.
Undefeated teams favored over Baylor on neutral field: Alabama, Florida State