At first glance it’s hard not to compare this upcoming game against Iowa State with the 2018 Duke game. There is a similar level of hype that is surrounding Saturday’s contest, and much like last year, fans expect the Bears to “take the next step” in the process. As we all know, the 2018 game ended in utter disaster. And although there might be other resemblances: day game, home field, hot weather, first big game of the year-- there are important differences.
I think the team was humbled by their experience against Duke in 2018. Baylor realized that it’s not enough to just have comparable talent, but you also must know how to win. Thankfully, in large part to two spectacular end-zone catches by Denzel Mims, the Bears should have the confidence and belief that they can win a close game late and overcome adversity. In fact, Baylor came from behind against Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Vanderbilt in route to notching victories in each contest. So unlike last year against the Blue Devils, I doubt this experienced Baylor team will hang their heads if we fall behind early in the ball game; something that couldn’t have been said around this time last year.
Also, unlike the Duke game in 2018, Baylor and Iowa State are coming into the game with enormous pressure on both programs. Truthfully, the Cyclones may be playing with more pressure than the Bears. A national off-season trendy favorite, this is a game Iowa State fans expect to win if they are going to solidify their claim into that first tier of the conference. Baylor is perceived as a middle of the pack Big 12 team, and typically Iowa State would rarely go on the road and beat those teams. But it’s a new day with coach Matt Campbell and this is a game Cyclone fans expect to win. Fortunately, I think that bodes well for Baylor. Last year against Duke, the pressure was all on the Bears. The Duke game was slated to be the one that would show that Baylor was back on track, and ultimately, that pressure hurt the Bears. The emotions of the game hindered Baylor early and often, resulting in dropped balls, bad penalties, and players out of position. This year both teams will be dealing with the emotions and pressure of the game and at that point it’ll be about who can handle it best.
Finally, this is Charlie Brewer’s team. He is the unquestioned leader. If you remember around this time last year Baylor was still playing with the two QB idea. Jalen McClendon shined against ACU, while Charlie had played better against UTSA. Heading into the Duke game, the Bears were still playing both quarterbacks. Now, it’s Brewer who has all the advantages of being the lone starter. By Saturday, he will have had almost two full months of getting all the first team reps and getting the timing down with all his receivers. Beyond that there also has to be some extra motivation for the Baylor quarterback; remember this is the game where he did not finish last year.
This game won’t necessarily be a make or break game for either team, but it is important. It’s the first conference game for both schools and one where both fan-bases think they should win. A buddy texted me a question last weekend. He asked “Are we any good?” I brought up some of the early improvements that I had seen in the first couple of games and that’s about it. But to steal a saying from my father,…….. “well we’re fixin’ to find out real quick.”