Baylor is coming off its best season in school history.
It was 11-2, the first time it had achieved 11 wins. It won the Big 12, another first, and beat Texas and Oklahoma in the same season.
,p>But coach Art Briles isn’t ready to crown the Bears the best of the Big 12. In fact, he’s still playing up the underdog role.
“We still see ourselves, me, personally, our team, we see ourselves as the guy fighting hard, scratching hard to try to get some recognition and some respect,” Briles said Monday during Big 12 media day. “And so that's something we're having to deal with a little bit as perception, image of Baylor football, it's a little different than what it has been in the past thanks to our players.”
Briles has tried hard to get away from the success of the 2013 season because he didn’t want it to cloud what the team was trying to do in 2014. The Bears return only 10 players and just three on a defense that helped secure the Big 12 title a year ago. Included in those losses are All-American safety Ahmad Dixon and All-Big 12 linebacker Eddie Lackey.
“How can you defend and protect something that nobody can ever tell you — 2013 is gone forever. That title is ours,” Briles said. “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.”
But even Briles acknowledged the advantages of finishing 2013 on a high note, especially when it comes to the polls. Even though the national polls haven’t come out yet, Briles said he expects his team to be in the top 12, which would provide a great jumping-off point to become one of the four teams in the new College Football Playoff.
“You could get on a hot streak, and if you start No. 8 to No. 12 in America, and win your first eight games, you’re a hot football team, you’re as hot as anybody in the United States of America, and suddenly you’re No. 2; might be No. 1.
"So the advantage is with our perception, our image nationally is we have a chance to fulfill faster, to get to where we want to get faster, which is getting in the Final Four this year.”
Still, Briles knows that he has to approach this season differently than any other just because of the way the college football nation is approaching the Bears. No longer are they being looked down upon as one of the basement dwellers in college football, but as one of the great up-and-comers and possibly one of the favorites for 2014.
“We have to learn how to prepare as the hunted as opposed to the hunter. We've always been the hunter. And I don't want to lose that edge and that attitude and that's something that we're working hard to maintain.”
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