Sat Dec 03 07:41pm EST
Baylor 48, Texas 24.
Not that he needs the help, but for simple comparison's sake, Robert Griffin III has never looked better. On one side, there was Griffin, racking up 352 total yards and four touchdowns with the best pass efficiency rating (211.3) recorded against a Texas defense since 2003. On the other, there was fledgling Longhorn QB Case McCoy, accompanying the first 300-yard game of his career with his first four interceptions. After running out to a 21-14 lead, the 'Horns made it look a little too easy, actually: From that point on, they were outscored 34-3. At Baylor.
When Texas plays Baylor, in Waco or anywhere else, that's supposed to be the other way around. It's supposed to be Baylor falling apart as the underdog to a more confident, consistent rival. It's supposed to be the Bears coveting the Longhorns' quarterback. As long as RG3 is still in green and gold, consider it a sign of the times.
With today's win, the Bears have won more Big 12 games with Griffin as their starting quarterback (12) since 2008 than they won in their first 12 years in the conference combined (11) from 1996-2007. Which is kind of putting it mildly. This year, they scored 45 points to beat Oklahoma for the first time ever, ruining the Sooners' BCS hopes in the process. They scored 48 to beat Texas for the second year in a row. They scored 66 to beat Texas Tech, 42 to beat Missouri and 50 to beat TCU in the opener, against a Horned Frog defense that hadn't given up 50 points or 500 yards of total offense in a game in more than five years. Turns out it was the most the Frogs gave up this year, too.
Baylor is going to finish the regular season in the top 10 nationally in total offense, scoring offense, passing offense and pass efficiency. It's going to finish in the top 20 (and possibly the top 15) of every major poll with nine wins for the first time since 1986, four years before Robert Griffin III was born in Okinawa, Japan. If it wins in the bowl game — a drought extending to 1992 — it will crack 10 wins for the first time since 1980, finishing the season on a six-game winning streak. At Baylor. Which is, again, Baylor.
By Sunday morning, Griffin will move into the national lead with the highest single-season efficiency rating in Division I history. If this was his last game in Waco — and his exploding draft stock suggests it may very well be, if he's so inclined after four years — the odometer will reflect one of the most staggering trajectories of his generation: From a gangly, one-dimensional track star in 2008 to a polished, All-American passer in 2011 with a legitimate claim on the title of best quarterback in college football. At the beginning of that run, the Bears hoped he could be the hero who led them out of a decade of last-place finishes and into a bowl game, at best. Any bowl game. At the end, he has a legitimate chance next weekend in New York to claim the title of best player in America, period. If he returns for a fifth season in 2012, he could have the Bears in the mix for a BCS bowl.
But in some respects, limiting Griffin's impact to the horse race almost diminishes the point. Outside of awards and projections, and even the statistics where Griffin dominates, Baylor knows what it has: The face of a program that barely existed to the outside world two years ago except as a punchline. If the Bears' rise from the grave last beyond Griffin's eligibility, it will still be with its most high-wattage star as a cornerstone and ambassador. If it doesn't, the myth of a brief, dreadlocked beacon in the middle of the wilderness will only grow. Either way, there is no trophy you can give him that will mean more than the Man Who Saved Baylor.