Note: This story is part of the 2010-11 KU football preview section that will appear in Saturday's Journal-World. Check back to KUsports.com throughout the week for a breakdown of each Big 12 team, including an in-depth look at KU's offense, defense and non-conference schedule.
Lengthy droughts have buried the Baylor football team into irrelevance in the last decade-and-a-half of college football.
The Bears haven’t made a bowl game in 15 years. During the stretch, Baylor has compiled a 41-117 record, which translates to a less-than-stellar .259 winning percentage. The Bears have finished last in the Big 12 South in 13 of the conference’s 14 years of existence.
“We know we have to become a bowl-eligible football team, first and foremost, and then we’ll go from there,” third-year Baylor coach Art Briles said at Big 12 media days.
So what will it take for the Bears to win six games in 2010?
The answer likely lies in the health of star quarterback Robert Griffin, who missed the final nine games of last season after tearing an ACL. With Griffin, the Bears were 2-1 last season. Without him, they were 2-7.
“As far as where he’s at physically right now, he was 217 pounds this morning,” Briles said on July 26. “That’s up about probably nine pounds from where he was at a year ago at this time, which I like, which I’m all for. When you get something taken away from you, you respond two different ways. You pout, complain, sulk, cry and fall into a shell, or you fight, you grind, you have vision, you have hope, and you work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. That’s what Robert has done.”
Griffin, who took a medical red shirt and still will be only a sophomore this season, is a dual-threat sparkplug who might be able to steer the Bears back to respectability.
Two years ago, Griffin was electric, throwing for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns, compared to only three interceptions. He also accumulated an additional 846 yards and 13 scores on the ground. Baylor still went 4-8 in 2008, but the Bears were no longer the obvious laughingstock of the Big 12.
Griffin is expected to be fully recovered in 2010 and should have some help at the skill positions. Senior Jay Finley returns at running back, and junior receiver Kendall Wright caught 66 passes for 740 yards last season, mostly without Griffin.
The Bears return 14 starters, seven of whom are on offense. With three returning offensive lineman to go along with experienced players at the skill positions, Griffin could be in for a bounceback year in 2010.
Baylor will have an early test on Sept. 18 when it travels to TCU, which is one year removed from a monster 12-1 season and an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.
“We’ve been around these guys for 21⁄2 years, and the ones that are still with us and part of our program, we appreciate them,” Briles said. “The more people you’ve got stepping in the same direction, the more force, and the more power you have.”