WACO, Texas (AP) — Bryce Petty is talking BCS championship game. The Baylor quarterback’s goal is looking more realistic with each passing week.
The Bears jumped six spots to No. 6 in The Associated Press poll on Sunday, and was No. 8 in the first BCS rankings later in the day.
There are two reasons for the rapid rise: Baylor had its fourth game this year with at least 70 points and 700 yards in a 71-7 victory against Iowa State on Saturday night. It was the largest margin of victory in a conference game in school history.
And the Bears got a lot of help, with six teams above them in the AP poll losing. So forgive Petty for having a hard time containing himself after another offensive show was accompanied by a defense that just missed its first shutout in the Big 12.
“My goal, our goal is Pasadena,” Petty said after throwing for 343 yards and two touchdowns and running for another score. “I think it was a far-out stretch dream for a lot of people, but not for us. We know we’re that good.”
Baylor was right on its nation-leading averages in points and yards (714) against the Cyclones, and would seem a lock to do more of the same Saturday against lowly Kansas.
Except the Bears have to go back to the only state that’s slowed them this year. They needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to come back and beat Kansas State 35-25 in their only road game so far.
“Kansas isn’t going to be an easy place to play either,” Petty said.
The Bears will face the Jayhawks with their highest ranking since 1980, which was also the last time they were 6-0. They’ll be going for a school-record 11th straight win, which would break a mark set in 1936-37.
Prolific offensive numbers aren’t new for Baylor, which leads the nation with 33 straight games of at least 400 yards. Lache Seastrunk had 112 yards rushing a week after an eight-game streak of 100-yard games ended, and Antwan Goodley is third nationally in yards receiving per game after getting 182 and two scores against Iowa State.
What’s different is a defense growing more confident each week under the leadership of senior safety Ahmad Dixon and junior linebacker Bryce Hager, a two-year starter.
Iowa State averaged just 2.9 yards per play, and the Bears had five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. They forced just the second lost fumble of the season for the Cyclones to set up an early touchdown, and had one interception apiece against shuffling quarterbacks Sam Robinson and Grant Rohach.
Baylor lost the shutout when the Cyclones scored with 47 seconds left.
“That’s probably the best game we’ve played since I’ve been here,” said senior defensive back Sam Holl, who had one of the interceptions. “Things are finally clicking, especially for the defense, and it’s making us a much better team.”
If they get by Kansas, the Bears will be 7-0 for the first time in school history and getting ready for their biggest test against No. 17 Oklahoma at home on Nov. 7. That Thursday night home game should generate an electric crowd, judging by the noise from 46,825 against a less-than-flashy opponent in the final season at Floyd Casey Stadium, which is being replaced by a campus stadium on the banks of the Brazos River.
“We’ve got to keep doing it. That’s the thing,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We’re closer than we were two weeks ago, but we’re not where we need to get.”
The Bears are closer to the top of the rankings than anyone thought they’d be before the season.
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