DALLAS (AP)—Back in the top 25, Robert Griffin III and the Baylor Bears have a chance to stick around for a while.
The No. 19 Bears will put their highest ranking since October 1991 on the line at home Saturday night against Stephen F. Austin of the FCS. It will be Baylor’s first home game as a ranked team since November 1991, and it’ll be the first of four straight games the Bears likely will be favored to win.
To appreciate what a lengthy stay in the poll would mean to coach Art Briles’ program, consider the history.
Baylor went 17 years without being ranked until cracking the poll last season. The Bears won their first game as a ranked team, lost the next and that was it. Their lack of staying power was best evidenced by them getting shut out by voters in the preseason poll.
A stunning victory over Rose Bowl champion TCU in the opener revived appreciation for Baylor, so much that it moved up in the latest poll without even playing last weekend.
Now the Bears get a chance to really build on their success.
After SFA, they play Rice at home, followed by a game at Kansas State and Iowa State at home. If all goes as Briles hopes, his team could have plenty of momentum when it heads into tough back-to-back road games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.
The next few weeks also could be a chance for Griffin to kick his Heisman Trophy campaign into high gear.
He’s already off to a good start.
Facing a TCU defense that led nation the past three seasons, Griffin threw for 359 yards and five touchdowns, plus caught a 15-yard pass for a crucial first down on the drive that ended with the winning field goal.
As much as Briles wants to promote Griffin and his program, he knows looming tests in October will show where his program really stands. So he’s not letting anyone get too excited about having beaten the Horned Frogs or the chance of becoming a potential regular in the Top 25.
“We’re certainly in the infant stages in my mind until we win a Big 12 championship,” Briles said. “We haven’t accomplished what we need to accomplish.”
Stephen F. Austin is a strong FCS program, but FCS nonetheless. The Lumberjacks are 1-1, coming off a loss against FCS power Northern Iowa and an 82-6 drubbing of Division III McMurry.
Baylor leads the series 3-0, with SFA yet to score a point. But since their last meeting was in 1947 a better stat might be SFA’s 2-10 record against FBS schools, with the last win coming in 2003 against Louisiana-Monroe.
“We’re going to go over there and get better,” Lumberjacks coach J.C. Harper said. “I know that playing Northern Iowa and playing Baylor is going to help us get better.”
The challenge for the Bears is avoiding a letdown.
“Immaturity,” running back Terrance Ganaway said. “This year, the coaching staff, everybody’s ready. We’re going to play at a high level every game this season. So, whoever we play, we’re going to play, we’re going to match the intensity, or maybe even exceed the intensity that we played with (against TCU). And when we do that, we get on a roll. And it’s hard to beat a team that’s on a roll.”