Baylor wrapped up its 2018 season in thrilling fashion on Thursday night in Houston with a win over SEC opponent, Vanderbilt. In doing so, I think most fans would agree that the 2018 season can be categorized as a success.
I still believe Baylor didn’t play up to its full potential this season, however. They simply left one too many games on the table. We had a beatable Duke team at home playing with a backup quarterback and yet our players didn’t show up until the second half. It’s also frustrating that we couldn’t get it done against a reeling TCU team at home; a loss that looks even worse after watching TCU’s bowl game performance. And even though it was an uphill battle, Baylor could not capitalize against Texas when we had them on the ropes. It’s unreasonable for a previously 1-11 Baylor team to be expected to win all of three games but winning 1 of those games would not have been unthinkable. One more win, plus the bowl game win and I think that would have capped off an arguably “perfect season” for our Bears.
Thankfully, there are several reasons that 2018 was a success. Most obviously is the win total improvement. Whether Baylor fans believe the 1-11 season was justified or not is irrelevant; the national narrative is that Baylor had a 6-game win improvement from the year before and that has helped elevate the Baylor brand. Second, Baylor fans were able to see the dividends of Rhule’s recruiting pay off. Coach Art Briles was well-known for finding under the radar guys that fit his system, and it looks like Coach Rhule is on his way to that same path. Charlie Brewer is on his way to becoming a top 3 QB in the conference next year, and the two grad-transfers that were brought in (Hurd & Thomas) were pivotal for the Bears all season long. Last, the saying that “winning cures all” seems to be prevalent within the Baylor fanbase. I was pleasantly surprised at the crowd that Baylor brought to NRG Stadium. The fans were engaged from pre-game all the way until the final bowl game awards were handed out. Along with this year’s homecoming game, it was the first time in a long time that the fans seemed to be having fun.
An improvement in the wins, solid recruiting results, and a more unified fanbase made 2018 an enjoyable year. And the great thing about sports is that you can look back on the missed opportunities as motivating factor all throughout the offseason. This 2018 will be known for the team that re-set the standards of a winning season. Baylor went from a disaster in 2017 to a success in 2018, and with a little more swagger, hopefully will play to its full potential in 2019.