In case you’ve been operating under a rock since late August, Baylor’s offense is obliterating opposing defenses.
Under first-year starting quarterback Seth Russell, the unit has produced a combined 321 points in five games, annihilating opponents by an average margin of 42 points. To put it another way: Ninety-four percent of all Division I teams average fewer points per game than the Bears’ margin of victory.
Coach Art Briles and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles have watched the team’s offense amass 3,625 yards this season — or 2.06 miles worth.
“Everybody [on the offense] is a lethal weapon,” Russell said this week.
He isn’t wrong: Baylor is on track to obliterate numerous offensive records this season, and eight players have caught a touchdown pass. Watching the Bears on offense can often feel like an exercise is reckless abandon; they almost exclusively manufacture highlight-reel fodder.
Nevertheless, there are three games remaining on the Bears’ regular season schedule that could give them trouble, and all three take place in consecutive weeks.
Two quick caveats: Each team that has beaten Baylor the past five years has produced at least 35 points in the game. Plus, the Bears have yet to face an opponent this season with a defensive efficiency ranked higher than 112th, and have far better defensive schemes waiting for them over the next few months. But this just shows that opponents need both an explosive offense and a defense competent enough to generate timely stops to even have a chance.
Baylor vs. Oklahoma: November 14, 2015
The Sooners (4-1) are coming off of a surprising loss to Texas but have shown an ability to get after opposing quarterbacks. Unsurprisingly, Baylor’s offensive line has kept Russell upright for much of the season, giving him ample time to dissect opposing secondaries. But Oklahoma averages better than two sacks per game, has the sixth-best adjusted sack rate in the country (per Football Outsiders) and is an above-average unit at forcing turnovers.
Although the offense was comatose against the Longhorns, Baker Mayfield has already thrown for 1,593 yards and 14 touchdowns and is responsible for 108 points. In his first year as the starting quarterback, Mayfield ranks eighth in the country — ahead of Russell, in fact — in total offense, producing 342.5 yards per game.
He also has a pair of receivers — Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard — who pick up at least 16 yards per reception and a downhill running back next to him in Samaje Perine, who holds the FBS single-game rushing record.
Coach Bob Stoops’s Sooners have struggled intermittently this season but have enough offensive firepower to put up points (37 per game) in a shootout and enough talent on the defensive side to get to Russell.
Baylor at Oklahoma State: November 21, 2015
The No. 16 Cowboys are 6-0 for the first time in four years and have historically given the Bears trouble.
The Cowboys have put up at least 30 points the past five weeks and rank No. 33 in efficiency. In 2013, the last time Oklahoma State defeated Baylor, it did it with an offense that produced more than 35 points per game; this season, they Cowboys are averaging 37.3 and are among the best in the country in red zone offense.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph has struggled at times but still ranks 16th in the country in total offense, producing 313.5 yards per game.
Baylor is one of the most-penalized teams in the country, allowing 89.6 yards per game on account of the 10.2 penalties they average per game. Eventually this will be pivotal in a close game and Oklahoma State, one of the least-penalized teams in the conference, could very well take advantage of this blemish.
More impressive than the offense, though, has been defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer’s outfit. The Cowboys rank 21st in defensive efficiency and already have six interceptions. They’re tied for first in the country in defensive touchdowns and lead the country in tackles for loss. Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean both rank in the top 15 in the nation in sacks, and could put Russell under duress.
Spencer’s outfit ranks second in the Big 12 in third-down defense, red zone defense and scoring defense. A strong third-down defensive unit is paramount against Baylor, considering the Bears rank second nationally in third-down offense, converting 55 percent of their opportunities. Keeping the Baylor offense off the field is a strong start to a game plan, and Oklahoma State may have the personnel to execute it.
Baylor at TCU: November 27, 2015
If nothing else, the Horned Frogs (6-0) seemingly have the offensive abilities to keep up with Baylor.
Over the past five weeks, Gary Patterson’s team has amassed at least 50 points, 540 yards and better than seven yards per play in each game they’ve played.
Trevone Boykin, a name often linked to the Heisman Trophy race, is tied for second in the nation in total offense, producing 411.5 yards per game. He’s completing a high percentage of his passes, is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country and is capable of creating explosive plays on the ground or through the air.
Wide receiver Josh Doctson (17.5 yards per reception, 877 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns) is as good as they come, and Aaron Green (6.38 yards per carry, 625 rushing yards, eight touchdowns) provides a nice counter-punch to the Horned Frogs’ pass-heavy offensive scheme. TCU also ranks third in the Big 12 in third-down conversion percentage. In both of Baylor’s losses last season — West Virginia, Michigan State — the opponent was able to convert at least 40 percent of their third-down opportunities. The Horned Frogs are currently converting 53 percent.
Defensively, TCU has been dull after a surprisingly stout campaign. The Horned Frogs, who rank 41st in efficiency, just allowed 385 yards and gave up 45 points to an ill-equipped Kansas State squad last weekend.
However, as mentioned earlier, if the offense can operate to a stalemate, all it takes is a few key stops to swing the tide. TCU ranks third in the Big 12 in third-down defense and can produce takeaways.
With a less explosive offense, the Horned Frogs put up 58 points against Baylor last season, ultimately losing by three. This could be the season they get into the College Football Playoff, but to do so, they’ll need to get through Baylor.
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the Pacific Standard and VICE, among other publications. He has been heard on CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. Planos is currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer.