Sunday, September 22, 2013
Baylor sends message to Bedlam schools
By Jake Trotter
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State had the day off. So the two schools got a good look at the biggest threat to Bedlam deciding the Big 12 in December.
Baylor whitewashed yet another opponent Saturday, serving notice to the Oklahoma schools that this won’t just be a two-team race for the conference crown.
Quarterback Bryce Petty and the Baylor Bears continued their torrid start to the season with a 70-7 beatdown of Louisiana-Monroe.
By annihilating Louisiana-Monroe 70-7, the Bears became the first FBS team to score at least 60 points in three consecutive games since the Sooners did it five times in a row in 2008. That Oklahoma team set a modern college football scoring record on its way to capturing the Big 12 title.
The Bears are quickly proving they too have a Big 12 championship-caliber offense.
Sure, Baylor has yet to face a quality opponent. Wofford, Buffalo and Monroe hardly comprise a challenging nonconference slate.
But it’s not who the Bears have beaten. It’s the way they’ve beaten them.
Through three games, Baylor has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 209-23 -- the largest scoring differential through the first three games by any FBS team in the last decade.
Buffalo’s defense gave Ohio State problems in Columbus. The Sooners struggled to move the ball against Monroe in Norman.
But in Waco, Buffalo and Monroe were fortunate Baylor didn’t drop off a hundred on them, because it probably could have.
The Bears are the first team to score 28 points in the first quarter in three consecutive games since the stat started being tracked in 1996. Against Monroe, they opened with five touchdowns, despite holding possession for just 2 minutes, 54 seconds.
And through just three games, Baylor has already totaled 24 touchdown drives of two minutes or less. Oregon, for context, led the FBS with 45 such drives last year.
“We've got good people,” coach Art Briles said after the Monroe shellacking. “We've got a good football team.”
The Bears might have more than just that.
Bryce Petty continues to look like the most complete quarterback in the league. He threw for 351 yards and four touchdowns before coming out of the game early in the third quarter again. So far this season, Petty is completing 75 percent of his passes, and leads the country with a Total QBR of 98.3.
“Not only this game, but every game [the mentality] is to attack first,” Petty said.
The Bears can attack in so many different ways, too.
But the attack still goes through running back Lache Seastrunk, who has done nothing but augment his Heisman campaign. In just 38 carries, Seastrunk has rushed for 417 yards and six touchdowns, and is averaging almost 11 yards per carry. Seastrunk now has seven straight 100-yard rushing games, the nation’s longest active streak.
Factor in a line that features NFL talents like mammoth guard Cyril Richardson, and this is an offense that appears to be without a weakness.
"We don't match up with them very well -- but not very many people do,” Monroe coach Todd Berry said, two weeks after Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn claimed the Bears should be ranked in the top five.
“We got scalded.”
It hasn’t just been the Bears offense doing the scalding, either. Over a seven-game winning streak dating back to last year, Baylor’s defense is allowing an average of just 21 points a game. In the first quarter Saturday, Joe Williams and Terrell Burt picked off passes for Baylor touchdowns.
The Bears have had their issues defensively in the past. But since dismantling top-ranked Kansas State in Waco last November, Baylor has been a solid defensive unit that has also been very opportunistic.
“When you score defensive touchdowns and you have the ability to score from an offensive standpoint, which we do, and you combine those two things, you've got a chance to put some points on the board,” Briles said. “That's our mentality."
Thanks to an improved defense and a seemingly unstoppable offense, the Bears have the mentality of seriously contending for their first Big 12 title.
Baylor should be decent-to-heavy favorites in its next four games -- the toughest being an Oct. 12 road trip to Kansas State.
The Bears have never won in Manhattan. But K-State labored to move the chains Saturday night against a Texas defense that previously had been surrendering rushing totals at record levels.
Neither K-State, nor West Virginia (Oct. 5), Iowa State (Oct. 19) or Kansas (Oct. 26) seems capable at the moment of slowing down these Bears, who appear to be rolling on a collision course toward a Thursday night bout with Oklahoma in Waco on Nov. 7.
That showdown could go a long way in determining the Big 12 title, which even with the falls of TCU and Texas isn’t just about Bedlam. As the Oklahoma schools got to see Saturday, it’s about Briles’ high-flying bunch, too.