Waco, Texas Baylor entered the rankings Sunday at No. 25 for the first time since 1993 after a victory over Kansas State that made the Bears eligible to end a 16-year bowl drought.
Heady stuff around campus in Waco.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction, you know,” third-year coach Art Briles said. “Important thing is to be in it when the season’s over, that’s the important thing, but it’s definitely a positive step perception-wise, no doubt.”
The Bears’ appearance in the poll is their first since Sept. 5, 1993, when they were ranked 24th after opening the season with a 42-39 victory over then-No. 25 Fresno State. They dropped out after a 45-21 loss to then-No. 10 Colorado the next week.
Baylor (6-2, 3-1 Big 12) beat Kansas State 47-42 on Saturday behind quarterback Robert Griffin III to become bowl eligible for the first time since joining the Big 12 in 1996. The win on homecoming came a week after the Bears held Colorado out of end zone in the closing seconds of a 31-25 win on the road.
“It is a growing point for our football team and for Baylor nation in general,” said Briles, whose team also entered the BCS standings at No. 25.
The last time the Bears were ranked for more than a week was 1991, when they were still part of the Southwest Conference. To match that, they’ll likely need to win at Texas this Saturday.
The Longhorns fell out of the rankings for the second time this season after being upset at home, 28-21, by Iowa State. The last time the Bears and Longhorns played with Baylor ranked and Texas not was Nov. 22, 1986. The Bears beat the ’Horns, 18-13, in Waco.
The Bears haven’t played in the postseason since the 1994 Alamo Bowl, when they lost to Washington State, 10-3, under coach Chuck Reedy. Baylor let Reedy go two years later after the first Big 12 season, then went through three more coaches before hiring Briles.
The sensational Griffin, who had a career-high 404 passing yards against the Wildcats, had the Bears thinking bowl game as a freshman two years ago in Briles’ first season. Baylor finished 4-8 but lost close games to ranked opponents Missouri and Texas Tech.
Griffin missed most of last season with a knee injury and the Bears lost seven of their last eight without him, finishing 4-8 again.
“This is a stepping stone,” running back Jay Finley said after setting a school record with 250 rushing yards against Kansas State. “We’re not going to stop right now. We’ve got a game next week and we’re going to prepare for it.”