Baylor will, barring an inconceivable collapse, spend a significant number of weeks this season in the AP and USA Today Top 25 lists -- hopefully remaining there for the duration once they make their debut. Although Saturday's 69-3 drubbing of Wofford was impressive as the Bears showed focus, offensive consistency, and the familiar offensive firepower that Baylor fans have grown accustomed to in the Art Briles Era, I don't believe it's enough to move the Green & Gold into the national polls.
We should not be surprised -- nor particularly disheartened -- if the University of Washington Huskies (currently seven spots and 65 points lower than Baylor in the extended AP rankings and 18 spots/77 points lower in the USA Today Coaches' Poll) vault past Baylor into the Top 25 this week -- with AP more likely than USA Today -- following Washington's 38-6 dismantling of 19th ranked Boise State as they christened their newly remodeled stadium on the banks of Lake Washington.
The reasons for this are two-fold:
1. Voters are influenced by what they know -- Like it or not, the polls are filled with bias and sentiment (they're polls, after all) and often that sentiment is driven by voters' familiarity with the teams they're ranking. Washington, like Baylor, plays in a major conference, but unlike Baylor's game against Wofford, the UW game garnered THE prime-time national TV spot on the DEBUT college football night for the new Fox Sports 1 network. That's a huge familiarity bias -- in other words, vastly more voters saw the Huskies/Broncos than the Bears/Terriers -- in the favor of the Huskies over the Bears.
2. Baylor's opponent doesn't help them -- Baylor's 69-3 win, like Oregon's 66-3 drubbing of Nicholls State, came against a vastly inferior opponent and isn't likely to change too many voters' assessment of the Bears. Those voters already have Baylor essentially pegged as the #27 team (if you were to extend the AP poll beyond 25) and the #29 team (in the USA poll) nationally, and although three teams near the bottom of the current polls lost (Boise State, TCU and Oregon State), is a win over Wofford enough in voters' minds? Keep in mind that victorious Michigan State (both polls) and Miami (USA Today poll) sit in front of the Bears as well.
In closing, let me be clear: Do I believe Baylor is one of the 25 best teams in the nation, regardless of the poll? Absolutely. Do I think the pollsters will agree with this? No, for the reasons given above, at least not yet. I believe Baylor will enter the Top 25 of both polls after beating University of Buffalo on Sept. 7. Until then, the team is likely to remain just on the cusp of national rankings thanks to the outstanding play by the Huskies on Saturday night against Boise State.