WASHINGTON, November 7, 2013 — Thank goodness for college football; we can forget the stress and negativity of politics for a few hours.
If your favorite team isn’t lifting your spirits this fall, try mine—the Baylor Bears. Watch them tonight. America loves underdogs that become winners. Not only is Baylor winning, but they have become the most exciting team in college football.
The Bears started the season unranked. Now they are undefeated and #5 in the country (#6 in BCS standings). Plus they are setting a pace to score the most points per game ever by a major college team. In a special Thursday game tonight a record Baylor crowd will host perennial power Oklahoma in a Top Ten matchup on national TV (FOX Sports).
Only once has Baylor beaten O-U, two years ago when Robert Griffin III threw the winning pass with eight seconds to go. That pushed Griffin out front for the Heisman Trophy and into his current starting role with the Washington Redskins.
That win marked Baylor’s emergence from its doormat position in the Big 12. It had been rough for a great many years. Being a Baylor fan evoked more pity than being a stray puppy. Before hiring Art Briles as head coach in 2008, Baylor was 35-101 in 12 seasons in the league, dead last in their division every year but one. (My own time at Baylor spanned five seasons, back in the Southwest Conference days. We won 7 games, lost 43 and tied one.)
The Associated Press called us “the laughing stock of the Big 12.”
It is rare for any school to make a turnaround from such depths. Kansas State did it over 20 years ago, as did Oregon (which also has a big Thursday night game with Stanford).
But no school has reversed its fortunes so dramatically as Baylor. Oregon has earned a reputation as the gold standard of a quick-strike offense, but suddenly Baylor has pushed the Ducks off that pedestal to a not-that-close second.
Baylor is scoring 63.9 points per game (56 is the all-time NCAA record) and 718 yards of total offense per game (625 is the all-time record). They’re also on pace to score more touchdowns than ever scored by any major college, more yards per play, and several other all-time records.
The Bears also have one of the best defenses in the country, including nine tackles per game in the opponents’ backfield.
In reaching 7-0 this year, Baylor’s lowest scoring game was 35 points and they’ve topped 70 points four times. This despite the fact that in six of their seven games, their starters were benched after the first series of the third quarter.
How do they do it? You can look up their spread offense on every sports page and website in the country because they’re all trying to figure out how Coach Art Briles has put it together. But everyone agrees that S-P-E-E-D is a big part.
They typically snap the ball about 15 seconds after the prior play ends. Wide receivers Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese are often in the end zone before the other team can adjust. Running back Lache Seastrunk can both out-maneuver and out-run defenders, even when he’s totally surrounded. And quarterback Bryce Petty is the top-rated quarterback in the country by ESPN’s ratings.
Even if they weren’t an incredible Cinderella story, it’s an eye-popping experience to watch how rapidly the Bears move the ball and score. This team also celebrates their success with fun, not by taunting opponents.
Add one more ingredient. You will see a fanatic home crowd tonight at Floyd Casey Stadium, where it’s a “blackout” game in place of the traditional green and gold. Only those loyal fans of teams that suffered decades of losing seasons can fathom the joy that is breaking loose in Waco, Texas.
When a sports team turns around its destiny, they become an example and an inspiration to many. To watch Baylor is to have your spirits lifted.
Baylor fans for long years have borne the brunt of jokes and insults. Sports pages and analysts openly urged that Baylor be kicked out of the Big 12 and expelled from major college football status. There was some breathing room when the last three seasons Baylor qualified for bowl games. It helped immensely that RGIII won the Heisman. But this year, for the first time in decades, Baylor can win a football championship.
These Bears are leading the hunt for that Big 12 championship. It’s still not easy. They must beat Oklahoma tonight, plus win their remaining tough games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas.
But there’s more. This team is good enough that if some others stumble, as they very well could, the long-time cellar-dwelling Baylor Bears could be playing for the national championship. That would be a comeback for the ages. The gridiron equivalent of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.”
Please watch tonight. And join me in a hearty, “Sic ‘em, Bears!”
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