If you've followed along the Big 12 blog chats for long, you're well aware of the running joke about whether or not Baylor was better than their record. Back when the Bears were 0-4 in the Big 12, I argued no. Bears fans persisted throughout the end of the season and after knocking off Kansas State, you couldn't deny it anymore.
Baylor was better than its record.
With that in mind, I could only chuckle when I saw colleague Brad Edwards' column on five teams who are better than their 2012 records. One of two Big 12 teams to crack the list: Yep, Baylor.
Still, it's kind of a complicated question. Go back and watch Baylor's 14-point loss at Iowa State to fall to 0-4. That was not a bowl team. They were sloppy, turnover-prone, undisciplined and incapable of stopping an offense that lacked explosiveness all season long.
The Bears turned a corner in a loss to Oklahoma two weeks later, hanging tough with the Sooners in a game that clearly was a sign of what was to come. A 28-point rout of BCS No. 1 Kansas State the following week proved it.
So, was Baylor better than their record? Edwards points to an adjusted Expected Points Added (EPA) that would have had the Bears as a top 20 team at season's end. I say the Bears were a completely different team in November with a resurgent defense and an emerging offensive weapon in Lache Seastrunk.
From November through the bowl season, Edwards notes that only one team had a better adjusted EPA than Baylor: Texas A&M.
Those were probably the two hottest teams in the country to close the season and the math supports that. By the end of the year, it was obvious Baylor was playing a whole lot better than an eight-win team.
Edwards' other pick from the Big 12? Another eight-win team in Oklahoma State. The Pokes never played at the level Baylor did late in the season, but they beat up on good bowl teams like Texas Tech, TCU, Iowa State and West Virginia, beating all by at least three scores. That's not easy to do in Big 12 play.
In adjusted EPA, Edwards says Oklahoma State had the numbers of a top 10 team. Those blowout wins surely helped, and he notes that losing close games to good teams like Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor made the Cowboys look a lot better in the raw numbers.
He also cites a few more numbers from the special teams that lend credence to the Pokes as a team that looked a lot better than an eight-win team last year. I buy it. You'll need Insider to see the full post and know Edwards' other three picks, but go check it out.