The Baylor Bears were favored by 24 points on Saturday and many assumed they would unmercifully filet Texas Tech in front of a national TV audience in an effort to better position themselves for a spot in the inaugural college football playoff. That didn't happen. Moments after his squad escaped with a surprisingly narrow victory, Baylor head coach Art Briles was asked why the game was so close. "A desperate man is a dangerous man and we were dealing with a dangerous man tonight," Briles responded, presumably referring to Red Raiders' head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
He then expounded further. "I'll fight a man with three children and a nice house any day over a man that's living out of a car," he explained to the delight of all in the room and the thousands that would later read his hastily relayed words.
To a degree his analogy makes sense. With a 4-7 record and no postseason game to look forward to, Kingsbury and his Red Raiders treated the matchup with Baylor as their bowl game. After all, the game was played in the gaudy, North Texas jewel borne from Texan's penchant for excess and Jerry Jones' pride. Kingsbury called an aggressive game complete with another fake punt and an onside kick. His team played loose and overcame three early turnovers to almost pull even at the very end before ultimately falling just short 48-46.
But his Texas folksiness in explaining away his team's surprising struggle belies an irony that Briles, and others, are now forced to deal with. Kingsbury did his best to pull off an upset in his team's final game but it will now be left to Briles, Gary Patterson, Urban Meyer and Jimbo Fisher to desperately jockey for inclusion by the playoff selection committee.
This is the world we've created. Style points are expected and realpolitik gives way to to folksy descriptions of hobos when opponents aren't sufficiently pummeled. In the coming days we will hear more reasons why a two-point win trumps an early season loss to Virginia Tech or how Minnesota is the best team since the Four Horsemen's reign. The selection committee's choices will be dissected and cussed, and an otherwise deserving team (and their fan base) will undoubtedly be left out.
As for Kingsbury and his Red Raiders, there is nothing but a long, dark winter ahead. But the effort on the field in Arlington on Saturday, and the effort going on behind the scenes in recruiting and building a program, should give Texas Tech fans reason for optimism.
The stunning progression of freshman quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the brief flashes of dominance from Mike Smith's defense are foundations in which grand expectations can be built upon. DeAndre Washington is a big-time running back and the young offensive line is an often unnoticed but potentially game changing unit. The young secondary held Baylor's explosive attack in check for most of the day and will only get better. All is proof that better days are ahead.
I watched these events unfold on Saturday afternoon while helping my wife and kids put up the Christmas tree and decorate the house for the holidays. While shuffling bins around the garage and trying to keep the boys from tossing glass ornaments I realized that many Baylor, TCU, Ohio State and fans of all teams were probably doing something similar. I've had more than my share of scuffles this year with opposing fan bases and even fans of Texas Tech. But amid the chaos while transforming our house into Will Ferrell's vision of the North Pole, I realized that we all probably have more in common than not. Sure we wear different school colors on Saturday, but in the end we're all just desperate men (and women) hoping for the best both in our real day-to-day lives and in our chosen diversions. So today I raise my glass to all of you. Good luck, no matter where your loyalties lie.
But, just one last thought: Enjoy kicking Texas Tech now while the program is down. Because that won't be the case forever.