Fun with Numbers: Baylor, a BCS run and a backloaded Big 12 schedule
The Baylor Bears' BCS run benefits from a backloaded schedule -- playing Oklahoma State, Texas, others could help leapfrog Ohio State
The Big 12 would like to say it takes a deep analytical look at team depth charts, second-team reps and recruiting classes when working on its football schedules.
"But nobody does that," senior associate commissioner Tim Allen said this week. "All conferences do scheduling by computer."
In other words, the Big 12 didn't backload Baylor's schedule with the Bears' national title run in mind.
But this year's schedule fell gently into the Big 12's hands like Ricardo Louis' catch during the Jordan-Hare Miracle.
A championship contender playing from behind can use marquee games late in the year to bolster the résumé. This applies to Baylor, the No. 4 team in the current BCS standings. The Bears play the league's four best opponents in the final five weeks of the season, including BCS No. 10 Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday.
At least for this BCS race, it's difficult for any team -- save maybe a few in the SEC -- to drop an early season game and win a title. That's why the Big 12 feels Baylor is well positioned, because Baylor can ride its confidence wave into the heart of the schedule.
Next year's playoff might be more time-sensitive, but for now a Big 12 team losing in September would likely eliminate that team's chances.
With a backloaded schedule of Oklahoma-Texas Tech-Oklahoma State-TCU-Texas, Baylor should be able to leapfrog Ohio State at No. 3, then hope for the best.
"Sometimes you hit a home run," Allen said of the schedule. "You get lucky."
What other teams in the top five of the BCS play their top four conference opponents in the season's final weeks?
1: Number of top-four Big Ten teams Ohio State will likely play from Nov. 1 to the league championship game on Dec. 7 -- against Michigan State, arguably the league's No. 2 team.
2: Number of top-four ACC teams Florida State MIGHT play in that span, if you still count Miami a top-four ACC team (the Seminoles played the Hurricanes on Nov. 2 and will play the ACC Coastal winner in the Dec. 7 conference title game).
3: Number of top-four SEC teams Alabama MIGHT will play in that span (LSU, which is probably No. 4 or 5, then Auburn, and an SEC East champ if the Tide beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl).
2: Number of top-four Pac-12 teams Oregon MIGHT play in that span (Stanford, then a potential Pac-12 title game).
In fact, the only other team in the AP's top 10 playing its top four league opponents from November to season's end is Oklahoma State, which would be in title contention save a curious loss at West Virginia.
It's worth noting that several ACC and SEC teams play each other on Thanksgiving weekend, but you get the point: The Big 12 is saving its best for last.
That Baylor is No. 4 in the BCS despite a relatively light early schedule is helpful this time of year. But Allen said he didn't know exactly how good Baylor would be when making the 2013 schedule. That was impossible. Schedules are made before NFL Draft declarations and depth chart developments.
In the past two years, Baylor has lost NFL-caliber receivers and productive quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence. So the way Baylor's schedule fell was kind of random. The Big 12 had a good idea Oklahoma State and Oklahoma would be good, but probably not that Texas Tech would start 7-0.
The Big 12 followed normal protocol with the schedule:
35: Number of realistic mock schedules the Big 12 uses for its schools per year, according to Allen. At the Big 12 office, the league actually pumps out about ...
600: Mock-ups for the Big 12 scheduling staff to review to ensure all possibilities are covered.
Eventually, the league narrows the mocks to five, which go to the athletic directors for final approval. With the help of Baylor AD Ian McCaw, the Bears were happy with this year's schedule, Allen said. Turns out the schedule gave the school the luxury of playing good teams without too many overbearing road games.
1: Number of true road games against Top 25 teams this season (this week at Oklahoma State).
Baylor was 1-8 in its past nine conference road games entering the year, but the Bears can maintain their magical run while staying in Texas for the tough ones. Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech (Arlington) are considered Baylor home games.
While the schedule helps Baylor, Baylor is also helping itself. In its two toughest games on paper, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, the Bears put up ...
104: Points on the Sooners and Red Raiders, all while playing ...
1: True Saturday home game (at Floyd Casey) in the final six weeks of the year, thanks to a Thursday night game vs. Oklahoma two weeks ago. What should help Baylor play on the road is the Bears' ability to win up front, averaging ...
300.3: Rushing yards per game, good enough for ninth nationally.
The Big 12 tries to give each team tough November games without an underwhelming early slate. That's not always easy. But the league loves how Baylor's schedule is playing out -- one that might give the Big 12 its first national title since 2005.
"Sometimes the scheduling guys get awfully lucky," Allen said.
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