The atmosphere is going to be a little odd at Baylor's season finale against Texas. It's always a little sad to see a stadium host its final game, but at the same time, it's clear that the Bears' future in Baylor Stadium is much brighter than some of the painful losses Floyd Casey hosted over the years.
This season, the fans say the last one at the Bears' off-campus home is Baylor's most important tilt of the year. The competition wasn't really even close. The Longhorns are one of the Big 12 favorites, and as Baylor learned last year, a big finish always feels good and makes the offseason a whole lot more fun.
So, it's no surprise that 33 percent of those of you who voted said Baylor's most important game is the finale against Texas. All things considered, we don't know how Texas will look in the finale. But unless the Longhorns are 11-0 and knocking on the door of the BCS title game, I say the Oklahoma game is bigger.
The matchup against the Sooners got just 18 percent of the vote, the same as Baylor's game against TCU and just 1 percent more than the game against Texas Tech. The only other out-of-state matchup, Oklahoma State, got just 14 percent of the vote.
Here's why I say Oklahoma's the biggest game of the year, barring the scenario I proposed earlier: Baylor's still fighting the perception battle. Nationally, people don't say Baylor and excellence in the same sentence. Robert Griffin III strapped himself to the Baylor name forever, but one guy doesn't change the entire perception of a program. You chip away at it over time. Baylor's trying to do that now.
Oklahoma's program has taken a step back the last few years, but most still associate the Sooner name with greatness on the college football field. The same is true with Texas, though the brand has taken an even bigger hit than Oklahoma has lately. Eight Big 12 titles since 2000 carry a bit more weight from the Sooners.
The difference is in exposure. Baylor hosts Oklahoma on a Thursday night game. The nation will be watching, and a win would mean another step in building Baylor's reputation. Baylor added a big building block when it beat BCS No. 1 Kansas State last year, and wins like that are ones everyone remembers forever. However, winning a huge, nationally televised midweek game over a program like Oklahoma adds tremendous value for a program rebuilding after decades of struggles.
That alone makes Baylor's game against Oklahoma its most important of the season.