DALLAS – Coach Art Briles and Baylor arrived at Big 12 football media days as defending champions for the first time.
Briles has a slightly different take on the Bears’ newfound standing.
“How can you defend and protect something that nobody can take? 2013 is gone forever. That title is ours,” Briles said Monday. “We’re attacking 2014 just like everybody else. That’s our mindset with our players, and that’s the way they’ve been approaching everything.”
The first of five coaches on the podium for the first day, Briles used a baseball analogy in that leadoff role.
“The thing that’s a little different is, I don’t know what the commissioner expected, but we’re not going to try to bunt or get a single. I promise you that,” he said. “We’re swinging for the fences. So maybe he should have put us fourth because that’s just the way we approach the game.”
Even with quarterback Bryce Petty and receiver Antwan Goodley back, Baylor was picked second in the Big 12 media preseason poll behind Oklahoma. The Bears won 11 games last season before losing 52-42 to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.
Kansas State and Texas, who will join the Sooners for the second day at the Omni Dallas Hotel, were picked third and fourth, respectively.
Oklahoma State opens Aug. 30 against defending national champion Florida State and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in Arlington, Texas.
The Cowboys will have less available practice time once school starts after falling below the NCAA minimum standard with their Academic Progress Rate score over a four-year period. They can work only 18 hours a week, instead of the standard 20 under NCAA rules, though coach Mike Gundy said that won’t be too much of an issue.
“We haven’t used the 20 hours in a number of years. And when you put it down on paper, we end up being about 45 minutes short,” Gundy said. “We’ll incorporate a few new things in two-a-days prior to school starting, when we don’t have any limitations, and we’ll move forward. I’ve challenged the players with accepting responsibility to make up for that time during the week.”
TCU won three consecutive Mountain West Conference titles before switching conferences two years ago, but is 6-12 in Big 12 games and coming off its first losing season since 2004. Coach Gary Patterson, the former defensive coordinator who directs that side of the ball, made a significant change in hiring co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie this offseason to install a more up-tempo offense.
“Truly a change of philosophy,” Patterson said. “It’s about scoring points. We can’t turn the ball over. And then on defense, it’s still about stopping the run, still about making people kick field goals and don’t give up the big play.”
Texas Tech won its first seven games last season for new coach Kliff Kingsbury, then lost five Big 12 games in a row before a victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.
Kingsbury said that season-ending victory “was huge” for the team and quarterback Davis Webb, who capped his freshman season as the bowl offensive MVP. Webb goes into this season clearly established as the No. 1 quarterback after Michael Brewer left during the offseason.
“I’ve been excited for Davis, to watch the progress he had,” Kingsbury said. “Having not been named a starter, he never pouted, never shut it down, just kept working. He knew he would get his chance. When he did, he made the most of it.”
After winning only four games combined the last two seasons under Charlie Weis, Kansas is again picked to finish at the bottom of the 10-team league.
When asked if he could put a number on how many games the Jayhawks need to win for him to consider this season a success, Weis said he could but wouldn’t publicly.
“I agree that your team’s expectations much be clearly defined, but we haven’t done a thing in the two years I’ve been here,” Weis said. “But our team very clearly knows what our expectations are. There’s no hiding it.”