Your college football team has looked kind of bad at some point in September. So turn to the name you trust to get you to mid-October with nothing but leaping touchdown hip bumps and finger guns and 28-point first quarters. Rely on the Baylor Bears and their scheduling brilliance to carry you above the carnage that awaits all who foolishly dare.
- Neither Clemson, Florida State, Iowa, Temple nor Toledo has a great offense. The same for Cal and Memphis on defense. TCU has only once had both an offense and a defense at the same time, and that was against Texas.
- Michigan State was showing cracks even before it almost gave up a 21-point comeback to Purdue. Ohio State's gameplan appears to be exploring the playbook for three perilous quarters before just letting Ezekiel Elliott cook.
- Alabama and LSU might not have quarterbacks, not that it's clear they need them. Northwestern and Utah have great wins, but are only decent statistically. Florida and Oklahoma each needed one of several Tennessee collapses to stay unbeaten. Oklahoma State is unbeaten, but after two straight weeks of weird ref stuff.
- Almost everyone else has a loss. Oh, and Bama has one too. (I don't really have any complaints about Houston, Navy or Texas A&M yet, but bear with me.)
And then there's No. 3 Baylor, outgaining FBS opponents by 4.48 yards per play, the largest margin in the country by far. Baylor's outgaining teams by about as many yards per play as teams like Boston College, Missouri, Northwestern and Pitt are gaining per play.
The Bears are averaging a 42-point victory, with the closest result a 28-point win over a Texas Tech that's taken Big 12 co-favorite TCU to the wire and beaten an SEC team (do not look up which SEC team I'm referring to).
Your first retort to this is that not all FBS teams are equal.
Baylor's scheduling preferences make such FBS-only stats almost pointless. When Baylor victim SMU loses to FCS James Madison, what was the meaning of all those big numbers? I mean, Baylor beat Rice, but so did Texas*!
* By 39 fewer points.
Baylor's out-of-conference schedule is, as it's been for years, a skillet full of small state schools for Art Briles to set on the campfire, a series of cardboard cutouts on which the Bears' five-star receivers can practice alley oops.
This year's includes Lamar, a recently renewed program that had warmed up the week prior against an NAIA school. Baylor put one of the country's greatest rosters against an OOC schedule that is (a.) mostly composed of a former NBA Draft prospect and (b.) might as well include his alma mater, which just beat Kentucky Christian.
Baylor's many future NFL players have spent three-fourths of their season competing against teams that might not rank in the country's top 100.
Combine that with the Big 12's traditionally backloaded schedules, and you get Baylor vs. clay pigeons for a month. Over the last three years, Baylor's average score through its first four games is 63.1-17.5.
That's awesome, man. When you find something you love doing, do it. Baylor loves annihilating weak teams, running a few wind sprints each Saturday in September and hitting conference play unbeaten, healthy and confident. Who are we to deny Baylor this?
Your second retort: this will all cost Baylor come Playoff time, just as it did last year.
It's true that we did just spend an offseason shouting about Baylor's schedule, but remember that the Bears would've ranked in the top four last year if they hadn't lost at West Virginia in a penalty-soaked travesty of a game. They would've ranked in the top four if Ohio State's backup quarterbacks had lost again at any point or hadn't put a historic beatdown on Wisconsin at the buzzer. They suffered at least as much for lacking a 13th game, which is out of their control, as they did for playing a weak OOC, according to the committee itself.
Baylor ranked No. 5 in the very first Playoff rankings, ahead of many teams with burlier schedules, and unless that happens again, I see no reason to call that a trend.
The committee has talked about rewarding teams with brave schedules, but its metrics aren't sophisticated enough to really punish Baylor. Nothing exceptional happened last year that would seem to affirm the committee's stated stance; teams were still largely ranked by number of wins. So it's hard to say why we've all adopted the idea that the committee will be more impressed by dialing up a valiant loss than by depressing some destitute university, other than wishful thinking.
(A 12-0 Baylor would probably finish 2015 with at least three committee-ranked wins anyway, btw.)
To be totally clear, I'm only making fun of Baylor a tiny bit. The Bear September is the product of an excellent team playing a schedule that is beautiful for everyone but fans who'd prefer to see Baylor play good teams. If I were an AD and didn't have to worry about playing big-money games, this is the schedule I'd give my team to play, and my coaches would write me direct messages of gratitude.
There's a good case against ranking the Bears in your Playoff bracket just yet, the numbers worry about how their defense will hold up against the meat of the Big 12, and they might have a special teams problem. But it's October, and no team has looked less bad, which is good.