Baylor football coach Art Briles said Wednesday that an unnamed source told him the Bears finished closer to a playoff berth than most outsiders realize when the bracket was set for the inaugural College Football Playoff in December.
“If my source is correct, we fell short of No. 4 on an 8-4 vote,” Briles said during a teleconference with reporters who cover the Bears on a regular basis. Briles did not name his source.
Baylor finished fifth in the final CFP rankings, one spot behind No. 4 Ohio State, which went on to win the national championship. TCU, which finished No. 6, was passed by both schools in the final CFP rankings despite a 55-3 victory over Iowa State to close the Horned Frogs’ regular-season slate.
Briles’ revelation of a voting breakdown by the 12 members of the CFP selection committee is interesting because votes within the room typically are done by secret ballot. The individual breakdown of each vote, based on CFP protocol, is not announced to the group.
Bill Hancock, CFP executive director, dismissed the possibility of the 8-4 vote in response to an e-mail about Briles’ assertion. Hancock said “there is not a way than any vote could come out 8-4” because committee members vote on teams in groups of three or more and submit secret ballots. Therefore, committee members “do not know how the other committee members vote.”
Briles used the analogy to illustrate how close Baylor (11-2) is to repeating as a national title contender next season. The Bears, who have won at least a share of the last two Big 12 titles, finished No. 7 in the final AP poll, the highest postseason placement in school history.
Baylor will open spring football drills Feb. 23, with its spring game set for March 20 at McLane Stadium in Waco. Key players coming off surgery who will be limited or sidelined during spring drills include defensive end Shawn Oakman (wrist), safety Orion Stewart (shoulder) and cornerback Ryan Reid (hernia).
Briles said quarterback Seth Russell, who will be a fourth-year junior next fall, “certainly has an advantage” in the battle to replace quarterback Bryce Petty because of his experience in the system. But Russell will be pushed in spring drills by Jarrett Stidham, a signee from Stephenville who already has enrolled and will go through spring drills.
Briles made it clear that he wants his players to embrace the “Baylor hate” that he perceives as more prevalent this offseason from league rivals after winning back-to-back Big 12 titles.
“I hope so,” Briles said. “People talk bad about the (New England) Patriots. But they’re a pretty good football team. If you’re successful, that’s human nature that other people won’t want you to be successful.”
Briles also made it clear he remains stung by the Bears’ 42-41 loss to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, when Baylor was outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter. Briles called it “an irrational outcome of a rational game … with a lot of circumstances beyond this football team’s control. That bothers me a lot.”