No. 12 Baylor could have sweet reward without Big 12 title

Baylor’s bid for a third consecutive Big 12 title is over. The No. 12 Bears are still in line for a pretty sweet reward if they get to 10 wins again.

Already assured of a bowl game for the sixth consecutive season, the Bears could play on New Year’s Day for the third year in a row.

With No. 3 Oklahoma winning the Big 12 title and likely headed into the four-team College Football Playoff, the league’s second-place team would go to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl against an SEC team. That could be the Bears (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) if they win their regular-season finale Saturday at home against Texas.

“That’s something to give you motivation,” receiver Corey Coleman said Monday.

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“Our season is still alive. We have a ton to play for,” standout senior left tackle Spencer Drango said. “A Sugar Bowl berth would be awesome. A New Year’s Six game, it’s still a huge game.”

The Bears play at home for the first time since their loss Nov. 14 against Oklahoma. They then won at then-undefeated Oklahoma State before their rain-drenched 28-21 double-overtime loss at No. 11 TCU on Friday night.

Even if Baylor had won the night after Thanksgiving, the Sooners — the only team to win three consecutive Big 12 titles — would have still clinched their ninth Big 12 title with their overwhelming victory at Oklahoma State on Saturday night.

“The only thing we lost with that game was bragging rights,” Drango said.

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Baylor’s only Sugar Bowl appearance came at the end of the 1956 season, a 13-7 win over Tennessee. The Bears played in their first Cotton Bowl since Jan. 1, 1981 last January, losing 42-41 to Michigan State.

When coach Art Briles was asked Monday about potentially playing in the Sugar Bowl, he responded, “Well, I’d be running as fast as I could to get that berth, because it’s worth chasing.”

The coach quickly added that the focus has to be on taking care of business against the Longhorns (4-7), but also noted what a great accomplishment it would be to win 10 games again with another high finish in the Big 12.

“If you’re not going to finish first, then finish second. I think that would show a lot of consistency over the years,” he said during his weekly availability on the Waco campus.

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Briles has talked with team leaders since the loss at TCU and described them as being obviously frustrated and disappointed. He wanted to make sure they were focused on what is ahead of them, not what happened in the rain.

“If you’re alive, you can have hope, you can have goals, and you can have purpose. That’s where we are,” Briles said. “We have a bunch of that in front of us. We can have a tremendously fulfilling season by taking care of the business at hand. … Let’s handle what we can handle — what’s in front of us. We can’t change what’s behind us.”