"Baylor falls to number 5 in the polls."
Such is the difficult life of a Baylor fan these days. The phrase "a few short years ago we were just glad to win a football game, let alone be competing for Big 12 and national championships" becomes less relevant by the day. In fact, if you were on campus this last Saturday you might think that sentence is already obsolete. The expectation of greatness is as tangible as the boats that scuttle around McLane Stadium early in the morning in anticipation of a game against an over-matched opponent late in the day.
While many have cited the recent spiral of the University of Texas or the mellowing of a Bob Stoops' led Oklahoma as the reason for Baylor's rise, those that have watched closely would tell you that more than anything, Baylor stepped up to create THEN fill the void they left behind. The only question that then remains: will Baylor see it to completion?
While we were all (myself included) panicking about the offensive performance over the last couple of weeks, Baylor was quietly averaging more yards per game than any team in the country. In fact, you could spot the second most prolific offense 100 yards a game and Baylor would still come out ahead. This is against obviously inferior competition, but Baylor isn't the only team playing inferior competition and Baylor is still running the most vanilla version of its offense it can.
Defensively, since the second quarter against SMU, Baylor has looked fine enough. Short fields and offensive turnovers contributed to points, but the yards that have been racked up against our first team defense have not come easy. We watched Phil Bennett make a difficult, but necessary move in yanking a senior in favor of a sophomore at Cover Safety. Shawn Oakman is so imposing that Lamar literally flipped the direction of its plays depending on his location on nearly every play. Yet here we are, wondering what is wrong. Why does the September version of this defense not look like it could help contend for a national championship in January?
I get it, I really do, and its absolutely your right to get mad and frustrated. I do it all the time. I felt like Michael Scott discovering Toby was back when LaQuan McGowan dropped a pass over the middle. I even screamed about it in the stands. And this was just over the simple fact that a 400 pound man didn't catch a pass that didn't even matter in the context of the game.
If you were expecting the "but" paragraph here, I'm not going to deliver it. I'm just here to tell you to be frustrated if you are, and to have fun while doing it. Whether you like to keep your perspective, acknowledge that your thoughts in the moment are probably reactionary or just go full tilt, burn-it-to-the-ground pessimist - have fun. That's why we like college football. That's why I flew in from NYC to watch Baylor play an FCS program. It's a heckuva lotta fun.
Baylor - the football team - has plenty to work on in the next two weeks. My eyebrows are raised at a growing list of little things that add up to big things. And you know what? I'm excited about it; in fact, I kind of love it. Baylor remains a top 5 team in the country and we have things on which to improve. Yes, that number five ranking is as irrelevant as Floyd Casey Stadium at this point in time, but this is a team that has done it before, we have all seen it. Two weeks of game film, two weeks off, a significant number of senior leaders, off the field distractions behind, The Great Coach Art Briles? Oh, boy.
I arrived to the tailgating area at 10:30 am on Saturday and it felt like I was late to the party. The group next to us was quick to help out in our setup, and afterward we took a quick exploratory trip around the stadium. The dedication is intense. From a shelled out ambulance turned Baylor tailgating mobile, to someone laying out on the base of the Pedestrian Bridge halfway out on the Brazos with a BU flag, there truly is another level of fandom in Baylor Nation and it's awesome. At some point in the future, Baylor might go 6-7, but I don't see the fans going anywhere. We're just having too much fun. Heck - it could be this year for all we know, but I'm beginning to believe that just as Baylor was more than RG3, it might just be more than Art Briles.
Baylor we are, and Baylor we'll always be. Thanks to all of you, whether I met you or not, who reminded me of that on Saturday. So as it has accidentally/naturally become my point of emphasis since my first ever true contribution to this blog:
Hey Baylor, Let's do this.
Let's go have some fun and, ya know, maybe win a championship or two in the process.