History is against Art Briles.
The new Baylor head coach inherits a program that has been the worst in the Big 12 since the league started. Five of the last six Bears coaches - dating all the way back to 1969 - lost their first game.
The present doesn't seem to be of much help either. Briles' Baylor debut comes Thursday night against No. 23 Wake Forest, which is ranked to start the season for the first time in program history.
Briles says he's all about the future and a win would make it seem a heck of a light brighter.
``Every game is a big game (but) Thursday is a big chance for us to showcase nationally what we certainly hope to be about as a football program,'' he said.
His staff and players need to look no further than Wake Forest for an example of how a major conference program can turn things around. The Demon Deacons have gone from ACC also-ran to conference champion under coach Jim Grobe and have won 20 games over the last two seasons.
That's the kind of success Baylor has been dreaming of for years. It's what the school was looking for when it hired Briles away from Houston, where he took a team that had been winless in 2001 and molded it into a Conference USA champion by 2006. Baylor hasn't had a winning season since 1995 under coach Chuck Reedy and was 3-9 last season under Guy Morriss.
So what prompted Briles to leave Houston for the dead end of the Big 12?
``My daughter told me not to take it,'' Briles said.
``The biggest challenge, without a doubt, is I feel like when people haven't had a lot of success, a lot of times they're scared of success. We can't be a university that's scared of success,'' he said. ``I like to walk down paths nobody else wants to.''
One of Briles' first challenges was simply picking his lineup. After a three-way battle at quarterback between Robert Griffin, Miami transfer Kirby Freeman and last season's starter Blake Szymanski, Briles said Tuesday has picked a starter but was keeping it a secret.
Syzmanski started 10 games last year and passed for 2,844 yards. Freeman started seven games in his career with the Hurricanes before transferring to Baylor for graduate school.
All Briles would say is that he expects to use more than one quarterback in the game.
Wake Forest has the unusual challenge of trying to live up to high expectations. After the 2006 ACC title, Wake promptly started last season 0-2 before rebounding to finish 9-4.
``People are just throwing names and number out there before anything has happened,'' Skinner said. ``Before you even play a down of football, you feel like you should be handed a trophy,'' Skinner said. ``I think being on both ends of the spectrum has really helped us stay grounded. We know that we can't let that stuff get to us.''
This year, the Demon Deacons return nine starters on a defense that held six opponents under 20 points and scored eight touchdowns on turnovers. Offensively, Skinner runs the show. His 72 percent pass completion rate was best the country last year.
``With the expectations through the roof for this football team, I think there's a little bit of pressure,'' Grobe said. ``I hope we handle it better than we did last year.''

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