Three and Out: Baylor holds off Kansas State to stay in playoff race
WACO, Texas -- Baylor clinched its share of the Big 12 title with a 38-27 win against No. 9 Kansas State on Saturday. But did the No. 6 Bears do enough on the season’s final day to vault themselves into the College Football Playoff's top four?
Here are three quick thoughts on Baylor’s win:
1. Baylor is the real Big 12 champion
Yes, the conference also gave a trophy to 11-1 TCU earlier Saturday, but no one outside the TCU fan base will recognize the Horned Frogs as the 2014 champs because when the two played on Oct. 11, Baylor won 61-58.
After TCU’s 55-3 win over Iowa State, coach Gary Patterson said the Horned Frogs did everything they could do to make their case for the playoff committee. Well, they didn’t beat Baylor. But by the same token, Baylor didn’t beat West Virginia. Baylor also failed to schedule any Power Five conference opponents in its out-of-conference schedule. Those factors could continue to drag down the Bears as the committee deliberates.
Complicating matters is the fact that Ohio State -- playing with its third-string quarterback -- boatraced a very good Wisconsin team in the Big Ten title game. The Buckeyes began Saturday ranked one spot ahead of Baylor and didn’t do anything to suggest they should drop. All Baylor can do now is wait and hope the selection committee believes the following three things:
- Baylor’s head-to-head win against TCU matters.
- Baylor is the Big 12’s “One True Champion.”
- The Big 12 is stronger than the Big Ten as a conference, giving Baylor’s conference wins more weight than Ohio State’s.
If the committee doesn’t buy into any one of those factors, the Bears probably get left out of the playoff.
2. Even Bill Snyder’s wizardry can’t contain the Bears’ offense when it is clicking
Baylor’s first four possessions went for 81, 81, 80 and 70 yards. The second ended with a Randall Evans interception of a Bryce Petty pass in the end zone, but the other three ended in touchdowns. Kansas State, which runs a much slower-paced offense, simply couldn’t keep up.
When the Wildcats got close, Baylor’s offense depressed the gas pedal more. After a Matthew McCrane field goal cut the Bears’ lead to 24-17 early in the third quarter, the Bears scored on a two-play, 77-yard drive that took 26 seconds and ended with a 58-yard touchdown pass from Petty to Antwan Goodley.
3. Of the playoff contenders, Baylor’s defense might be the least reliable
The Bears entered Saturday allowing 5.7 yards per play in Big 12 games, and they didn’t exactly shut down Kansas State’s offense. The Wildcats averaged 6.0 yards per play on Saturday.
But when the offense scores like Baylor’s does, the defense doesn’t have to be perfect. Unfortunately, the committee is going to be looking for nits to pick to separate a group of very good teams with similar resumes.