The Bears faced a mid-week challenge against Neal Brown’s Mountaineers who are scratching and clawing for a conference win, that isn’t against Kansas and showed some defensive resolve down the stretch.
After losing tackle-leader Clay Johnston to a knee injury, the Bears won on a surprising narrative: Their defense stood tall. With a leader at QB like Charlie Brewer, you’d expect a gritty win to be his responsibility. However, the Bears flipped the script that has existed since the ’80s and has established a pass rush and blitz concepts that have been lacking in the Big 12. The offense-first mindset of the Guy Morriss and Art Briles eras is an afterthought at this point. Where exactly does that put Baylor for the home stretch?
The Driver’s Seat
There are 4 remaining games in the regular season for Matt Rhule’s Bears, next of which will be a rivalry game against TCU in Fort Worth. The Frogs have some wind under their sales after knocking off Texas at home, but face a tough road test against Oklahoma State for game 8. The Cowboys will be missing corner-burning receiver Tylan Wallace on the outside, but still, have the statistical all-world running back Chuba Hubbard in their backfield. If the Bears get a Frog team that is heating up to end the season, this could be a rough patch.
At first look, going to TCU may seem like a trap game for the Bears. The Frogs are 4-3 and the Bears hold the last undefeated record in the Big 12 at 8-0. After traveling up I-35, the Bears come home to take on the perennial Big 12 titan Oklahoma. Baylor could be looking over their shoulder heading into Fort Worth, but who could blame them? Game 10 for Baylor could be their first top 10 matchup in Big 12 play since they topped Oklahoma State in 2015.
Down the Road
After the battle between the Big 12 top 2, the Bears will stay home the following week to face the stunned Longhorns. The loss to OU seems to have set UT back a few paces. After eeking out a victory at home against the recently inspired Jayhawks, they dropped their third game of the season in Cowtown. Under Tom Herman, Texas hasn’t been the kind of team that keeps their chin down for long. Coupled with the hope that key players will be returning from injury, this has the makings of another potent matchup.
After this gauntlet to end the season, Baylor washes their hands in Lawrence against a Jayhawk squad who’s played with a little more swagger since getting dismantled against TCU and OU in consecutive weeks. If it looks like a trap game and it smells like a trap game, it’s probably a trap game. Baylor has put together the kind of season that puts you in AT&T Stadium for game 13.
With that in mind, they will be playing games in 4 to 5 straight weeks. Ironically, the team with the least to lose is the team they play before their most important game. Everyone strap in, this could be a bumpy ride.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Taking all of these games with a grain of salt, Baylor is basking in the glory of an 8-0 start that no one predicted. They show up to games with a business-like approach and have lined 8 W’s up in their column. The defense has given up 30 or less in every game, there’s a two-headed monster of Lovett and Hasty in the backfield, and Brewer is leading a passing attack that will see Thornton and Mims surpass 600 yards apiece by game 9. Analysts will warn you about the strength of schedule, but if getting to 8-0 was easy then there wouldn’t be 8 of them left.
Momentum is a powerful thing in football, more so when it’s being played by emotional college students. If Baylor only loses one of their next 3 and the Kansas win becomes a win-and-get-in game, we will see green in Jerry World this December.
Maybe this Baylor squad is tired of being discounted, and they’ll go win every dang game. Heck, we could see a new Big 12 rep in the CFP.
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