- David Ubben, College Football
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Sometimes, things go exactly according to plan.
Other times, you have to wait a year.
I feel pretty confident that Baylor's bowl drought would have ended in 2009 if Robert Griffin III hadn't been injured, but a year away from the field didn't have a negative effect on the Bears under Art Briles.
Griffin III came back from a torn ACL and was immediately one of the best passers in the Big 12, without even considering his talent as a runner. The Bears' raucous celebration with fans on the field after gaining bowl eligibility against Kansas State earlier this year ended with Griffin getting engaged, and now the Bears will taste the fruits of their early season efforts with a trip to Houston for the Texas Bowl.
Baylor's three-game losing streak to end the season put a slight damper on the season, but all three losses came to top 20 teams, and the memory of those losses would go away quickly with a win over Illinois. Do that, and this will be remembered as the dream season it should be.
Offensive MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB. Baylor won just one conference game last year, but the Bears were atop the Big 12 South with three games left in the season this year when Griffin returned. His 3,195 passing yards made him just one of four quarterbacks in the Big 12 to top 3,000 yards passing this year, and he accounted for 21 passing touchdowns and eight rushing touchdowns.
Defensive MVP: Byron Landor, S. Landor quickly earned a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the Big 12. The Bears needed him to play well this season, and he did. He finished with 115 tackles and 73 solo stops, with three tackles for loss.
Turning point: The win over Kansas. Yes, Kansas wasn't very good, but Baylor laid a big-time beating on the Jayhawks, running them off the field at Floyd Casey Stadium with a 55-7 win. It wasn't a marquee win, per se, but the lopsided score in an early conference game served as notice to the rest of the league that, hey, these guys were pretty good.
What's next: More improvement, and another probable bowl bid in 2011. The Bears will get to play more North teams in a round-robin Big 12 schedule, and Griffin should continue to improve. All five of his top targets -- who all finished with at least 40 catches -- will return next year, and there's no reason to think the offense won't be just as solid. Jay Finley is done, but explosive backs Jarred Salubi and Terrance Ganaway look more than ready to pick up the slack as solid complements of one another. The Bears could use some improvement on a defense losing its top five tacklers, but they should be set on offense. Young players in the secondary, like superstar recruit Ahmad Dixon, should get a chance to contribute more next year.
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