Consider the non-conference season for the Bears a significant success.
In disposing of Rice Saturday night in Houston, BU ends the first third of their season with a solid 3-1 mark and heads home to begin conference play Saturday.
Not to be overlooked is the fact the Bears notched a convincing road win under their belt in the first month of the season, a feat accomplished by fewer major FBS programs than you might think.
Added to that, Baylor is healthy in key positions and will embark on Big 12 play with a slew of games that look appetizing to a team this promising and talented.
Last week at this time, BU was left searching for answers after being drubbed on the road, only one week later it seems fair to believe that a huge boost of confidence is back in this team's stride. That's what a dominating performance on the road affords.
And Baylor was dominant, sharp and impressive Saturday night in H-town. Even a hefty thunderstorm and rain delay couldn't derail an offense that looked better and more fluid than it has all month. Bears fans saw the running game open up more (perhaps coach Briles is getting more comfortable with Griffin's durability) and the trio of supporting offensive weapons, Finley, Gannaway and Wright, were simply too much for an overmatched Rice squad.
I felt Briles said it best when asked about the team showing improved effort and passion.
`"That is what we asked them to do and that is what they did... it is a huge win.'
So we turn the page to the meat of this year's schedule. The make or break games in what many call a make or break year for Briles. It's time for BU to capitalize on some good mojo and get off to a good start.
Before we look ahead to what should be a fascinating set of games in the final weeks of this season, our friends from Lawrence visit Waco as the Bears prep for their first home game in three weeks.
We've heard the terms `must win' and `season-maker' used before and this week's game is no exception. The Bears are the better team, the significant favorites and have never lost to the Jayhawks at Floyd Casey.
With eight weeks remaining in this program-defining season, the Bears are undoubtedly right where they need to be.
Coming off a humbling, disheartening and back-to-earth grounding loss against TCU, BU now must pick up the pieces, answer their critics and get back on track by preserving a winning record in non-conference play.
Otherwise, things are likely to get real ugly and real soon.
The fourth-ranked Horned Frogs outclassed Baylor in Fort Worth Saturday in a 45-10 throttling. The Bears did little on defense to stop TCU's Andy Dalton, the Frogs completely contained Robert Griffin III and the Baylor offense sputtered its way throughout the afternoon, amassing only 263 yards.
Were there positives to take away from Saturday? Sure. BU did not turn the ball over and were whistled only six times. The Bears had committed an inexcusable 23 penalties in the season's first two games. In addition, the Bears depart from week three of the season with no key injuries, unlike last year.
At some point during all the Monday morning quarterbacking that's gone on since Baylor left the field Saturday, we must tip our cap to TCU. I understand that we looked flat, that we didn't play with a chip on our shoulder and that's certainly reason to be frustrated with this team's progress (or lack thereof) after three games.
I hate to say this just as much as you hate to read it, but the Frogs just may be the best team Baylor plays all season. With one week remaining before Big 12 Conference play even begins, let's hope I'm right.
Staring the Bears in the face this week is an all-too important game with another former SWC brother, Rice. A win and Baylor will have accomplished what it set out to do; finish the non-conference season with a winning record. A loss and the Bears will likely struggle getting back off the mat with the gauntlet of the Big 12 right around the corner.
Chances are this team will get its share of challenges and have several more situations where its adversity will be tested, it happens every year when a team like
Baylor plays a schedule like this. Fortunately, for fans of this program, our team's resolve is about to be tested and revealed.
It may be just the fourth game of the season, but I think it's safe to say after Saturday we'll finally have a pretty good indication what brand of football we can expect from this team.
Baylor and TCU renew their old Southwest Conference rivalry this weekend in Fort Worth for the 106th time. Through the first 105 meetings, the series is a complete deadlock. 49 wins for Baylor, 49 wins for TCU. The two teams have tied seven times.
It's no secret, the Horned Frogs and Bears do not like each other. The events of this past summer have not been forgotten. The animosity between the two school's fan bases has reached a fever pitch.
On Saturday, the gloves are coming off.
In what many Baylor fans will call the most-anticipated game of the year (if not many years), the Bears will make their away-from-home debut at Amon Carter Stadium and be hosted by America's latest BCS-busting darling. TCU is a heavy favorite, hasn't lost in Fort Worth in a really long time and, most notably, has handled the Bears in recent meetings.
However, there is plenty of reason to believe the matchup this year could be a 60 minute dogfight.
BU has looked sharp in its first two wins. They carry a 2-0 record into week three for the first time in five years. Their defense has sparkled in not allowing a touchdown in the season's first eight quarters.
The Baylor attack, though not overwhelming, has been consistent and effective. Oh, and also a bit conservative.
Perhaps Coach Briles has saved a few tricks up his sleeve for this week, eh?
By now, we all know what's been on happening in the west side of the North Texas Metroplex. I'm not gonna waste time by reminding you of TCU's rise to success. I'm sure you have a TCU coworker or neighbor to do that anyway. The Frogs are a heavy favorite Saturday and rightfully so.
TCU craves an invite to the Big 12, they have for some time now. The fact that they don't get to play with the big boys and we do irks them to say the least. Adding fuel to the fire recently was the rumor that TCU put the kibosh on Baylor's possible jump to the Mountain West conference when the Big 12 Conference's existence looked about as steady as a ringside chair at a WWE brawl this summer.
Want more? The Frog's victory over Oregon State two weeks was universally seen as the team's `biggest hurdle' on their road back to a possible BCS bowl.
How's that sit with a team like Baylor?
How's that sit with a team ready, like never before, to prove its worth in the nation's top conference?
How's that sit with a team showing signs that this will be the year they finally turn the corner and end that much-discussed bowl game drought?
The reality is, inside the Baylor locker room sit the only group of people that really know if this team can compete on Saturday. Everyone outside that room won't give us a chance to win. Every talking head will probably tell you we don't deserve to be on the same field.
It may be just week three of the season and it be just another non-conference game, but I'm willing to bet the guys wearing green understand the significance of this game to this team and this school this season.
The return of Robert Griffin III under center last weekend combined with a dominant defensive effort provided BU a convincing 34-3 over Sam Houston State last Saturday in the season opener.
The Bears indeed started something that they haven't lately grown accustomed to: a win in their home opener. It was their first such win since 2007 and it took place before what many called an `inspiring' crowd.
42,000 answered the `Rise Up' call dialed by Baylor Athletics this summer and filled Floyd Casey with its biggest home opening crowd in over a generation. Clearly, readers of this forum aren't the only ones who understand the importance of this season to the team's long-term viability.
With another solid showing this week in front of what will be another huge home crowd, the forthcoming gauntlet of conference games should look less daunting.
Baylor's season premiere was highlighted by RG3 flashing a return to his brilliance (let's be honest, his best efforts are still to come), rumbling for a 30 yard score on the season's second possesion and throwing for 242 more yards. The much-scrutinized defense was dominant (allowing roughly 100 yards of offense through three quarters) and the special teams were impressive.
Baylor is only a win over Buffalo away from starting the year 2-0, a feat that the program hasn't accomplished in five years. In short, the Bears have a great opportunity to keep the momentum going for another week.
The week that figures to showcase the team's most significant improvement is here while the team's first of three showdowns with AP top-10 ranked teams is quickly staring us in the face. The Bears only have one more week of practice before locking horns with Mountain West darling TCU in a game that both teams have undoubtedly circled.
And there is plenty of room for improvement. Griffin threw 17 incompletions (that includes several notable drops), the Bears were whistled for 10 penalties and BU converted a mere five of 14 third downs.
Perhaps moving our date with TCU back a few weeks was a good decision, eh?
Make no mistake; the Bears now believe in their chance at drastically improving on last year's win total. We likely only got a taste of what our high-powered offense can afford and Briles play calling was noticeably tailored to a quarterback that hadn't yet taken a hit since a season-ending injury the year before.
Added to that, the Big 12 Conference appears to be down (after one week at least). It's not hard to get a little carried away and start picking off games on BU's schedule that appear much more `winnable' than they did in seasons past.
However, time is certainly of the essence. It's an important week of practice to tighten up the screws and Saturday will surely be an important tune-up before things heat up in Fort Worth.
By then, Baylor will probably need a little `something' extra.
Each year at this time, as the weather cools and summer starts to shift its way into the rear view mirror, kids arrive back on campus and the greatest time of year begins. The echoes from the marching band are heard throughout campus; the percussions even raise a hair or two. The buzz around town starts to permeate through us all. The wait is nearly over.
It's time for football season.
Being handed the assignment of chiming in weekly with my thoughts and foremost my emotions as a new campaign begins could not be easier. September is and has always been a time of mass optimism. Last season's misfortunes are a thing of the past, the hope of a program moving in the right direction is high and even the most cautious cynic is excited for what's about to be unveiled on opening day.
A Texas summer with nothing to do but anticipate this coming weekend will do that to you.
Growing up in a house where Notre Dame Football Saturdays was a religion all of its own, I quickly gained a fascination with the phenomenon of this sporting spectacle. Over time, my love affair has only strengthened.
Unlike any other season in sport, college football arrives with the subtlety of a punch to the mouth. A mere three months later, most teams play their final game before Thanksgiving and order is restored on Saturdays. Sandwiched between those two weekends are arguably the most celebrated 12 weeks of the year. Students, alumni, family and friends gather each week to live and die with their school's teams for three hours. Traditions are relived, old friends are reunited, tailgates are enjoyed, glory days are relived and new memories are created.
Trips back to the Alma Mater are made; at no other time does your campus shine more than it does on game day. The sea of school colors is visible at every corner. The pride the entire community takes in its football team is obvious. The anticipation for that day's kickoff is immeasurable.
It's all just right around the corner now.
So bring on the pageantry, bring on the marching bands, the fight songs, the colors, the smells, the sounds, the live mascots, and the unmatched experience that a college football Saturday produces.
Come Saturday, it will be time to dust off that old sweatshirt, fly that flag and make plans to be with your like-minded friends.
It's game day baby, and it only happens 12 times each year.