What’s At Stake For BYU Football Against Future Big 12 Rival Baylor
WACO, Texas – BYU football comes into today’s game against the Baylor Bears with a 5-1 record. An excellent record considering the low expectations everyone around the nation had for BYU after losing so much personnel from last year’s team.
But they come into this game looking to bounce back after a disappointing 26-17 loss to Boise State a week ago.
If BYU wants to get back on the winning side of things, they’ll have to do it in front of a sold-out crowd that will likely see some strong pockets of Cougar fans in the mix at McLane Stadium.
Baylor comes into the game with a 5-1 record at the midway point of the season. The Bears are in year two under head coach Dave Aranda. They’ve emerged as one of the surprises in the Big 12 Conference. With one more victory, Baylor would be bowl eligible. A vast improvement from the two wins they had last season amidst COVID-19.
This is the first meeting between the two programs since BYU’s National Championship season in 1984.
Here’s what is at stake for BYU in this game.
Don’t let one loss become two
There’s a solid argument to make from BYU’s loss to Boise State that the Cougars beat themselves. Four turnovers, with two of them putting Boise State deep in BYU territory and leading to touchdowns, there’s evidence that the performance was an outlier and not who BYU truly is.
A game against Baylor can provide an excellent barometer for this team’s direction in the second half of the season. Some fans have suggested that the season is over, and there’s nothing to play for since BYU is still in its penultimate season as an Independent.
There’s always something to play for. And if BYU can find a way to put together another double-digit win season, that would be a massive milestone for Kalani Sitake’s program. But if the Cougars want a legit chance at winning 10-plus, they need to play well against Baylor this afternoon.
Earn bragging rights over “Grimey”
The connections and relationships between the BYU and Baylor coaching staff make this a matchup that brings a lot of familiarities, despite not having played as programs in 37 years. One of the notable connections is Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.
Grimes coached in the same role on BYU’s staff the past three seasons and brought a much-needed toughness to the Cougar Football program. He arrived at a time when BYU football was experiencing a historic low. With Aaron Roderick alongside him, he helped rebuild BYU’s offense quicker than many envisioned.
Roderick noted earlier this week it’s tough to go up against your friends. A-Rod was in numerous meeting sessions with Grimes and Baylor offensive line coach Eric Mateos the past few years. But, as hard as it is to face friends, you still want to get the win over them.
BYU fullback/tight end Masen Wake gave a good picture of the emotion behind the game to The Zone Sports Network, “It’s going to be kind of weird playing against Coach Grimes because he recruited me ever since I was a junior [in high school]. But I love that guy. So yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun, but I want to go out there and kick his ***.”
BYU Football: First impression to Big 12 Country
Going into the future of the new Big 12 Conference, Baylor will likely have a prominent voice within the league. Like BYU, Baylor is a faith-based institution that values its Christian standards. There’s a lot of similarities between BYU and Baylor. It has the makings to be a future rivalry within the conference when BYU joins in 2023.
The last thing BYU wants to do is lay an egg or perform the way they did against Boise State. That level of play from BYU would probably make the hometown faithful happy because it would result in a Baylor win. But on the flip side, it might have these Big 12 people saying, “We added them?!”
Kalani Sitake said he isn’t worried about first impressions against future league foes; he’s just focused on trying to win the ball game. But it’s hard to ignore the Big 12 backdrop with this matchup.
Clinch bowl eligibility
It’s a lock that BYU football is going to a bowl game. With games against Idaho State and Georgia Southern remaining on the schedule, no one’s questioning BYU’s ability to reach the six-win mark. But it’s easier said than done.
Since 2005, BYU has clinched a bowl berth in 15 of the last 16 seasons. BYU has an automatic tie-in to the Independence Bowl against a Conference-USA team this December. But with a win over Baylor, maybe BYU can keep the dream alive of an at-large bid in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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