Baylor should consider itself fortunate to remain in the Top 25 this week.
The No. 25 Bears looked broken on Saturday, losing ugly at home to TCU 62-22. The luster of their 6-0 start has completely faded. Few respect Baylor’s early victories against five nobodies and No. 17 Oklahoma State. Not after it lost its second-consecutive loss to an unranked opponent. Not with off-field drama continuing to build.
Before its loss to TCU, Baylor’s assistant coaches released a joint statement on Twitter defending former coach Art Briles, who was fired before the season for his role in a sexual assault scandal. Then players honored Briles during the game by wearing bandanas that featured his initials.
Leading rusher Shock Linwood was also taken out of Saturday’s game for what Baylor coach Jim Grobe described as “getting into it” with a graduate assistant. He is suspended for Baylor’s upcoming game at Oklahoma.
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“This thing kind of morphed into something it didn’t need to be,” Grobe said Monday. “Coach Briles recruited all of these guys. If you get caught up into making statements, you play terrible.”
That terrible play has sent Baylor’s once promising season into a tailspin.
Two weeks ago, the Bears were in the top 10 and had the look of a playoff contender. Now, you wonder if they will win another game. Look at Baylor’s back-loaded schedule: at No. 9 Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas Tech in Dallas, at No. 11 West Virginia.
Baylor has the talent to win two or three of those games, but it won’t be easy with a fractured roster that appears focused on the past.
“It’s going to be tough to regroup,” Grobe said. “Hopefully, that’s out of our system. My hope is we will.”
The Big 12 is down to a three-team race.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or West Virginia will win the conference championship. The Sooners, undefeated in league play, remain the team to beat. But they must still travel to West Virginia. Oklahoma State already owns a victory over West Virginia and is red hot at the moment, but it must still play at Oklahoma. West Virginia climb into the driver’s seat by beating the Sooners.
The victor will have an outside shot at a playoff berth.
West Virginia probably represents the league’s top playoff hope, because it has a single loss. If the Mountaineers win out, and teams such as Washington, Ohio State and Louisville stumble, they would have an argument for inclusion.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would be longer shots at 10-2. But they would have some things going for them. The Sooners played a difficult nonconference schedule, losing to Houston and Ohio State, and the Cowboys lost to Central Michigan on a final play that shouldn’t have occurred
The majority of Big 12 football fans will need to wait another week to learn when their games will begin on Nov. 19.
Texas Tech will take on Iowa State at 2:30 p.m. in Ames, but no decision has been made for Texas at Kansas, K-State at Baylor, Oklahoma State at TCU or Oklahoma at West Virginia.
The conference and its television partners will announce those kickoffs on Sunday.
1. Oklahoma (7-2, 6-0): Don’t look now, but Sooners are back in the top 10.
2. Oklahoma State (7-2, 5-1): Mason Rudolph can feel overlooked at times in this league.
3. West Virginia (7-1, 4-1 Big 12): Will setup huge game with Oklahoma if it beats Texas.
4. Baylor (6-2, 3-2): Bears could lose their final six games.
5. Kansas State (5-4, 3-3): Wildcats fell one play short against West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
6. TCU (5-4, 3-3): Frogs put an absolute hurting on Bears.
7. Texas (5-4, 3-3): D’Onta Foreman would be a Heisman contender on a better team.
8. Texas Tech (4-5, 2-4): Red Raiders need to win two of final three to reach a bowl.
9. Iowa State (1-8, 0-6): It’s been a rough season, but Cyclones are favored to beat Jayhawks.
10. Kansas (1-8, 0-6): Last realistic hope for victory comes this week against Iowa State.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett