After Baylor’s dreams of an undefeated season were dashed, coach Art Briles used the bye week to his advantage even though the Bears were itching to get back on the field.
While it may have a slim chance to climb back into the national title hunt, No. 12 Baylor will be focused on putting up a cleaner performance Saturday against a Kansas team seeking its first conference road win in six years.
The Bears (6-1, 3-1) soared to No. 4 in the country after winning their first five by an average of 38.6 points before rallying to top TCU 61-58 on Chris Callahan’s field goal as time expired. The Horned Frogs were unbeaten and ranked ninth at the time.
However, Baylor’s national championship hopes took a big hit Oct. 18 when it finished with 18 penalties for a conference-record 215 yards in a disheartening 41-27 loss at West Virginia. The normally high-powered club finished with a season-low 318 total yards – well shy of its nation-best 579.0 average.
Briles said his Bears used the following week off to take a hard look in the mirror after falling eight spots in the poll.
“Figuring out how we can remedy things that went wrong on the football field and gather up a new direction so to speak. That part of it was beneficial,” he said. “The hard part is just not being able to do your trade. What you want to do is get back on the football field and get back to work.”
Now Baylor is among a crowd of one-loss teams, with No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 2 Florida State the only remaining unbeatens from power-five leagues. In the Big 12, West Virginia (6-2, 4-1) still has to play TCU and first-place Kansas State, while Baylor will host the first-place Wildcats (6-1, 4-0) on Dec. 6.
“A lot of times you can float along and think everything is OK when maybe it’s not and we were living proof that it’s not, so we are certainly going to be a determined team here from this day forward without question,” Briles added.
Bryce Petty will try to get the offense back in high gear against the Jayhawks (2-5, 0-4), who are also coming off a bye week after extending their losing streak to four games with a 34-21 loss at Texas Tech on Oct. 18.
Petty completed 16 of 36 passes for 223 yards and two first-half touchdowns against the Mountaineers after throwing for a career-high 510 yards with six scores versus TCU. He’s been sacked 11 times in his last three games.
Star receiver Antwan Goodley did his part with a season-high nine catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.
The Bears, however, might be best served getting things going on the ground after falling short of 100 rushing yards for only the second time in their past 40 games. Kansas has given up more than 200 rushing yards in two of its last three and ranks eighth in the league at 179.3 allowed per game.
Shock Linwood, the Big 12’s rushing leader at 99.4 yards per game, had 106 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries in a 59-14 win at Kansas last season. Petty also played well, completing 20 of 32 for 430 yards and three scores.
The Jayhawks have dropped 24 straight conference road games since a 35-33 win at Iowa State on Oct. 4, 2008.
“(We’re) all getting prepared for what is a great challenge for our program, an opportunity to play a 6-1 team coming off its first loss of the year, and a team that has built a nice program,” interim coach Clint Bowen said.
Bowen’s squad ranks last in the Big 12 with 185.1 passing yards per game, though Michael Cummings has provided a spark by completing 40 of 69 for 523 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions the past two games. Jimmay Mundine has been his top target with 12 catches for 170 yards and a score over that span.
The Jayhawks will try to find holes in a Baylor defense that has allowed 99 points and 668 passing yards the past two games.
The Bears, seeking their 14th straight win in Waco, have won each of their six home meetings with Kansas.