Most would look back to 2010 as the turning point in Baylor football. Coming back from a knee injury, Robert Griffin III was able to lead BU back to their first winning season and bowl invite in a generation. Since then they have been fighting a never ending and always changing narrative of "yeah . . . but".
Yeah Baylor went to their first bowl in forever, but they'll never be relevant. Yeah RG3 won the Heisman, but they'll go back to being "same ol' Baylor" after he leaves. Yeah Baylor's offense is still potent sans RG3, but their defense is terrible they will never be more than a middling team. Yeah Baylor won the Big 12, but only because it was a down year in the conference and it won't happen again. Yeah Baylor has a really good team, but they don't deserve a shot in the College Football Playoffs.
Now, it's not to say that these criticisms aren't without merit. Baylor was irrelevant for a long time and only God knew what was in store for them. Life after RG3 did indeed look like "same ol' Baylor" for a lot of 2012. Baylor did lose games because our defense had yet to come together. Here's the kicker, though; the reason people keep coming up with a new "yeah . . . but" is because Baylor has proved them wrong again and again.
Baylor was a college football afterthought, but RG3's Heisman win showed why people needed to pay attention to the Bears. Baylor wasn't that great in the first two-thirds of 2012, but then they beat four teams straight, including then #1 Kansas State, to get bowl eligible for the third year in a row and then humiliated ranked UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. Baylor did have bad defenses, but they developed into a top 25 defense for the past two seasons and helped win our first conference championship in 30 years.
Art Briles says that he is in the proving business and that is what he has done since arriving at Baylor. Baylor's been continuously addressing every "but" and soon they naysayers will run out their "yeah . . . but"s. Win a second consecutive Big 12 championship and it proves last year was no fluke. Dominate the rest of the 2014 season and Baylor will have a strong resume for the playoffs. Make the CFP and show the nation that they deserve to be there by getting to the final round and possibly even winning it all.
As Baylor collects more end of season hardware and awards, the less people will be able to doubt the Bears. Every conference title, individual player award, All-American Honor, and NFL draftee will build upon each other into a legacy of excellence that other, more established programs benefit from. As the achievements come, so too will the talent. We've already seen a noticeable and steady increase in Baylor's recruiting classes these past seven years with Briles at the helm, and it shows no sign of stopping.
This isn't to say that Baylor's done everything right either. They still make mistakes like losing games they shouldn't and taking it easy when scheduling their out of conference games.
Baylor's losses to OSU in 2013 and UCF and WVU in 2014 are definitely in the back of many people's minds when considering the strength of this year's team (even though only the last one has anything to do with this season). Past successes and failures still hold sway when trying to determine future success, and people will look for any reason to doubt teams they aren't sure of. It's not about winning every game. There's no shame in losing close to a good team. What hurts is getting blown out when you're favored, or not showing up for your first and only BCS game, or losing to an un-ranked team. Those are the losses Baylor cannot afford. If they can eliminate those type of losses, the Bears will have removed another "yeah . . . but" from the doubters.
Most importantly Baylor must start scheduling better OOC games (shocker, I know). This is what is currently hurting BU's playoff chances the most. The Bears soft OOC may actually keep them out of the inaugural CFP and possibly in the future as well.
This is where we, the fans, come in. We need to actively lobby Ian McCaw and Briles for tougher OOC games regardless of this year's CFP outcome. Email, tweet, snail-mail, carrier pigeon, or however you choose to pass along written thoughts, we need to (nicely) demand tougher games in the future. If not for our CFP resume then for the love of the game itself. Games against other power five teams are more fun to watch and get psyched up for. Power five games allow us to see how Baylor stacks up against the other conferences and teams. So get out your pitchforks and torches and light a fire in the Baylor sports administration for better and tougher scheduling and take yet another "but" out of people's minds.