Art Briles Defends Scheduling Philosophy That Leaves Baylor No Margin for Error

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Baylor lost out on a College Football Playoff invitation by the narrowest of margins last season, despite Bears head coach Art Briles’ protests after the regular-season finale.

One can point to any number of theories as to why Art Briles’ Baylor Bears were bypassed by Big Ten and eventual national champion Ohio State: the Big 12’s lack of a title game and the resulting mess the conference’s title picture became is among the more popular.

Another theory — one with which Art Briles does not agree — is that Baylor did itself no favors playing a weak out-of-conference schedule.

Baylor guzzled its nonconference docket of SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo by a combined 178-27 last season, before embarking on its Big 12 championship season. One loss at West Virginia effectively knocked Baylor from the Playoff picture.

Now, the Bears are likely slotted in that No. 4 spot without the West Virginia loss. Pursuing perfection is an awfully narrow margin for error Art Briles is leaving his team, but a zero in the loss column is one way of guaranteeing a shot at the championship…isn’t it?

Well, even that is no guarantee.

Popular opinion last season seemed to indicate had Florida State — the only unbeaten to land in the College Football Playoff — lost in the regular season, the Seminoles would have been left out. That’s even with the clout of reigning as national champion. Still, Florida State proved Art Briles’ theory: go wire-to-wire in a Power Five conference, and you’re in.

Yet, even so, Florida State played two Power Five opponents in the nonconference: rival Florida, and Baylor’s Big 12 partner, Oklahoma State. That’s 11 games against the top tier over the course of the Seminoles’ 13-game schedule.

Likewise, Oregon played 11 games against the Power Five, facing Michigan State in the nonconference to supplement a nine-game Pac-12 slate. The Ducks were also afforded the luxury of avenging their only loss by playing the Pac-12 Championship Game against Arizona.

Oregon returns Michigan State’s visit to Autzen Stadium by paying a visit to East Lansing this fall. Say Art Briles lead Baylor to a perfect regular season, with wins over all nine other Big 12 teams and out-of-conference defeats of Rice, SMU and FCS Lamar, does that automatically trump a 12-1 mark accrued with two more games against Power Five teams?

That’s an awfully tough argument to make. While Baylor could end all doubt by simply adding a Power Five in place of, say, Lamar, the program’s current stance is needlessly defiant and could result in Art Briles having to make another impassioned, and ultimately futile plea to the Playoff committee.