Baylor easily got through its nonconference schedule with three lopsided victories in 13 days before taking a break.
Even though none of those games were against an opponent from the other power five leagues, seventh-ranked and defending Big 12 champion Baylor did what it had to do. Now as long as the Bears keep winning now that they are going in conference play, the Bears should be well-positioned for college football's new four-team playoff.
"I've just felt all along that if you come unscathed out of the Big 12, you're going to be in the final four," Bears coach Art Briles said. "That's been our thought process all along. ... We line up and go play."Baylor is the only Big 12 team that will not play an opponent from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC during the regular season.
But the Bears go into their Big 12 opener Saturday night at Iowa State (1-2, 0-1) leading the nation in scoring (59.3 points a game) and total offense (654 yards), just how they ended last season.
They have outscored their opponents 178-27, with at least one touchdown in all 12 quarters even with reigning Big 12 offensive player of the year Bryce Petty missing half of those because of two small cracked bones in his back. They opened their new stadium with a 45-0 win against SMU on a Sunday night, were there the next Saturday against FCS team Northwestern State, and then went to Buffalo for a Friday night game Sept. 12.
"We're right where we felt like we needed to be," Briles said. "We had three games in 13 days and knew that was going to be kind of a tough chore without question as far as preparation and then keeping our guys fresh. ... We managed to do all that. We went 3-0, we got a week off, now we've got a four-game stretch before we have another open date, so it's fallen good for us."
The College Football Playoff's selection committee won't compile the first of its weekly rankings for another month. But based on current polls, including Baylor being sixth in the Amway coaches' poll, the Bears should be right in the middle of the playoff mix — as long as they keep winning.Three of the six teams ranked ahead of Baylor in this week's AP Top 25 are SEC West teams Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M — they all still have to face each other, plus play three other division opponents currently 17th or better.
Defending national champion and No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Oregon have both had close calls already this season.
The Big 12's other three Top 25 teams — No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 24 Oklahoma State and No. 25 Kansas State — are in Baylor's last four regular-season games. The Bears play Nov. 8 at Oklahoma in their last true road game before home games against the Cowboys and Wildcats sandwiching a matchup against Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas.
For now, the focus is on Iowa State, a team they beat 71-7 at home last season, but lost to in their last two trips to Ames, Iowa.
"It's always a tough place to play," said Petty, who returned against Buffalo to throw for 416 yards and four touchdowns in three quarters. "I remember what that was like two years ago, so we are ready go back up there and do what we know we can do."
And what they have to do to be playoff contenders.