For the truly elite programs in college football, nothing really changes.

Oh sure, the names on the backs of the jerseys give way to different ones, and the mugs under those face masks aren’t mirror images of their predecessors.

But at some level, Alabama is Alabama. Same blue-chip talent, same ultra-fleet defense year after year. Same goes for Oregon, Oklahoma and Ohio State. It’s excellence marked by consistency.

Could it be that the Baylor Bears are beginning to float into that rarefied air?

In Saturday’s season-opening 69-3 dismantling of overmatched Wofford, the Bears looked like the spitting image of Art Briles’ top teams. The resemblance was kind of eerie, honestly. If anything, these Bears were the same, only bigger.

You could see it in that immense Baylor Line, the most massive I’ve seen in my 15 years in Waco. I thought it might take until fall break for the entire lot of them to enter the stadium. If gold prices really are rising, the Bears’ freshman student section is richer than ever.

You could see it in Briles’

pedal-to-the-metal play calling. The Bears needed exactly two plays to bust into Wofford territory. Even in the RG3 days, it might’ve taken three.

You could see it in the (mostly) precise passing of Bryce Petty, who patiently waited his turn for three years behind Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence. And he chucked it around the field with the same aplomb as those other guys, only showing off a slightly bigger frame.

You could see it in the defense, which administered some heavy licks from the get-go. It may seem like a back-handed compliment, but this figures to be the biggest, best defense the Bears have sported in the Briles Era.

Granted, Baylor did exactly what it should do to a FCS foe. Let’s not crown the Bears champions quite yet. But it was the ease with which it all unfolded (much as it has before) that speaks to the consistency the Brilesian Bears have attained.

“We want to play Big 12 football,” Briles said. “That’s what we recruit guys to do, to play Big 12 football. And that’s playing fast, playing fast and playing tenacious.”

It was another Art — Art I. Stotle — who said something like, “You are what you repeatedly do.” If you repeatedly flash more speed than some college track teams, if you repeatedly create takeaways with your defense, if you repeatedly score touchdowns in less time than it takes to boil Minute Rice, you might just be able to call yourself elite.

Alabama can proudly wear that label every year. More often than not, LSU, OU and USC can, too. As crazy as it seems, a day may be coming when Baylor can join that conversation.

“That’s the way we’re going to be week in and week out,” said safety Ahmad Dixon. “I don’t care if it’s TCU, Texas, whoever. That’s the way we’ve got to be.”

It’ll take a lot of things staying the same. The Bears are definitely going to need that kind of day-in, day-out dependability if they want to be in the mix for Big 12 or BCS championships, the type of bling that accompanies legitimate elitism.

That’s “one down, 12 more to go,” Petty said after the game.

Hold up … conference titles? Double-digit victories? National championships?

That stuff, my friends, would be very different indeed.