1:10 P.M., SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2012
BY JUSTIN CANGE
The yuletide season arrives this week as Baylor football storms west for the 35th annual Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The Bears and UCLA will kick off Thursday night in what promises to be a close and entertaining sleigh ride that with enough passing will conclude sometime before the start of the next Christmas season.
This will be BU's first trip to the Golden state since their infamous start to the 2002 season which saw a 48 point pounding served by Cal. Oh, how the times have changed.
Baylor, now making its third straight bowl appearance has been invigorated with three straight impressive wins, its latest a sound thumping of a very strong Oklahoma State team, 41-34. The Bears head to the `postseason' unquestionably playing their best football of the year.
Not bad for a team that headed into the second week of November with four wins and the nation's then number one-ranked team coming to town. What Baylor accomplished since November 17 is nearly as immeasurable as it was unforeseeable. After upending K State, Texas Tech and OSU, the Bears have now beaten every team in the Big 12 at least once over the past two seasons and became the Big 12 school of choice to head to southern California over four other conference counterparts with the same record.
In other words, if college football is indeed a beauty contest, Baylor is receiving a plethora of insincere `congratulations' and `you totally deserved it' well wishes from its brethren in Fort Worth, Stillwater, Morgantown and Lubbock.
The team did so by, like we projected, establishing a more than impressive running game to go with the nation's leading passing attack. The defense was opportunistic with two scores, nine forced turnovers and better-by-the-week execution during the winning streak. It added up to not only landing a worthy, ranked Pac 12 opponent in the Bruins, but also may have kick-started a new Heisman campaign.
Lache Seastrunk recently told The Sporting News that not only is he the nation's best back, but that he WILL return the Heisman to Waco next year. No word yet if the `return to sender' sticker made its way to College Station.
Additionally, Baylor was able to lock-up Coach Art Briles for the foreseeable future with a contract extension just as other, local, schools had started adding him to their Christmas wish list.
So, in summation, Baylor managed to clinch its third straight winning season, became the envy of nearly half the conference with the Holiday bowl selection and held on to their widely-sought-after coach.
They accomplished all this just one season removed from RG3, a phenomenon many thought would prove to be a `one hit wonder.'
Unlike Marcy Playground, the Bears came back for more in 2012. They altered the BCS landscape by boat racing K State, they defeated Tech for a second straight season and proved time and again that Floyd Casey Stadium still has some magic left in its final years.
Their job, of course, is not done. While many on the team say that qualifying for a bowl game was this team's goal, for seniors like Terrance Williams, Mike Hicks and Nick Florence leaving the field with anything but a victory seems fitting.
They owe it to themselves, they owe it to Briles and they owe it to anybody that remembers that disaster in Berkeley ten years ago.