(Only occasionally, Inappropriate Conversations will look at sports. This is one of those occasions.)

When Baylor visits Oklahoma State in Top 12 football game this weekend, it will be the Bears third road game of the year. All of their non-conference games were played in Waco. Last night’s game against Texas Tech was played at a largely neutral venue in Dallas.

This could be a judgment, but that’s a different topic for another day. After all, Oklahoma State has completed its four road games this year, and Baylor will reach their fourth by the final week. (The majority of OSU’s non-conference games were played on neutral fields, and two of them were located much closer to their opponents’ campuses.) No, the conventional wisdom is that “everybody does this.” Alabama has played two of their four road games so far, plus one neutral site. Florida State and Ohio State are, in some ways, bucking the trend by having five road games on their schedule, and four are behind them now.

That other thought for another time might be the relationship between how much we esteem the power of certain teams and the frequency of their televised performances being in front of a home crowd.

I raise the point that Baylor is about to face its biggest road test, merely to call out the difference in home versus road results. This is not just true in the Big 12 Conference but in college football across the board. All sports, really. Teams perform better at home, meaning that they struggle to maintain the same standard of performance in front of a hostile crowd.

What makes the Big 12 more interesting to me is how “road game” might be differentiated. It is one thing to visit Los Angeles or San Francisco. I’d suggest that the road to places like Ames (Iowa) or Manhattan (Kansas) or Stillwater (Oklahoma) feel a bit longer. I wouldn’t call those “university towns” remote, but they are more than an hour from an international airport.

Through yesterday’s results, Baylor is beating opponents by a margin of 61-17 (truncating). That is undeniably impressive. They have played two road games, both against Big 12 teams in Kansas. The results in those games are 23.2% worse on offense and 11.8% worse on defense. We know, it’s a hard road.

The other thing to note is that Kansas State is the best of those road opponents for the Bears, coming into the game at Stillwater against OSU. The score in that game was only 35-25 for undefeated Baylor. Kansas State led 25-21 going into the fourth quarter.

Just to make the appropriate comparisons, OSU is beating opponents by a margin of 40-19 (truncating). More to the point, though, the Cowboys at home are undefeated, winning on average by 39.5 to 12.0.

If you only take the home results on both offense and defense from OSU against the road results from Baylor, a case could be made that the Cowboys should be favored to knock the Bears from the conversation about unbeaten teams. It looks like OSU by 5 on paper, or virtually a pick’em game.

Call it Oklahoma State 34, Baylor 28 – as unlikely as that may seem.


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