Posted by Tom Fornelli
The 2010 season has been pretty good to the Baylor Bears. A school that spent the summer fighting to stay in the Big 12 conference when vultures from the Big Ten and Pac-10 circled overhead looking to pick off any team that it could, and was picked to finish last in the Big 12 South yet again.
Now, here we sit with only a few weeks left in the regular season, and Baylor finds itself 7-2 and ranked in all the major polls, including the BCS. Even better, at 4-1 in conference play, the Bears sit atop the standings in the South Division, ahead of teams like Oklahoma and Texas -- whom Baylor just disposed of in Austin last Saturday night.
A lot of the credit goes to head coach Art Briles, who in his three years at the school, has finally built a team capable of winning amongst the big boys of the Big 12. You can't even call what Briles has done a rebuilding project, because, frankly, there wasn't anything to rebuild when he got to Waco. He isn't remodeling Baylor football, he's building it from the ground up.
Of course, even Briles would admit, having a quarterback like Robert Griffin III around makes the task a lot easier. Griffin has been fantastic this season, leading an offense that is averaging 490.4 yards per game, good enough to be eighth in the country. Griffin himself is supplying 332.5 yards of offense by himself each week.
His play on the field and his leadership skills have some comparing him to former Texas quarterback Vince Young, which is a comparison I find to be quite apt. I had the same feeling as I was watching Griffin lead Baylor to a win over Young's former team on Saturday night.
It's not just what Griffin has done on the field for Baylor this season that deserves praise. He's also been named to the ESPN Academic All-District team, and is on pace to graduate this December with a major in political science. Remember, Griffin is still a sophomore who just graduated from high school only three years ago.
In other words, Griffin works hard both on the football field and in the classroom, and it's led to success in both areas. Success that has made it's way to the rest of the football team as it prepares for a huge game against Oklahoma State this weekend.
Like Baylor, the Cowboys have exceeded expectations a bit this season, and have a high-octane offense that can put points on the board in a hurry. Whoever wins this game is going to have the inside track on the South Division title and a trip to the Big 12 title game (though both schools still have Oklahoma looming on the schedule).
Will Baylor beat Oklahoma State this weekend? I don't know. The fact of the matter is, the game will come down to which defense is actually able to stop the opposing offense a few times, as points will be scored in this game, and a lot of them.
Still, what matters here is not whether Baylor has what it takes to hold on and win the Big 12 this season, but the fact that it's even here in the first place. Which it wouldn't be without Griffin leading the way.
And we really don't know how far Griffin has yet to lead them.