Guest Columnist: Daniel Hill, sports editor, The Lariat
Sean: Do you remember 2011, when the Baylor Bears were undefeated at 3-0 and looking like a dark-horse national title contender? Then they stormed into Manhattan, where Robert Griffin III and company lost to the Wildcats 36-35, spoiling any title hopes the Bears had. Art Briles himself calls Manhattan the toughest environment in the Big 12. If the Baylor coach is intimidated by Bill Snyder Family Stadium, his players probably are as well. Baylor may be averaging 70.5 points per game, but anything can happen on the road. And Baylor hasn’t gone on the road yet.
Daniel: In 2011, the Baylor football team had many flaws that were hidden by the spectacular play of Robert Griffin III. This is a new brand of Baylor football. The Bears have NFL-caliber talent at multiple positions on offense and an improved defense. After four games, the Bears boast the No. 1 offense in the NCAA and the No. 14 scoring defense. Only two other teams can say they rank in the top 10 offensively and top 20 defensively (Washington and Florida State). This is a complete football team. Granted, one that hasn’t had a road test yet, but talent alone should be enough to boost No. 15 Baylor over K-State this year.
Sean: Baylor may have the best offense in the NCAA statistically. But who have the Bears really played? Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia aren’t exactly stout defenses. In fact, they’re pretty terrible on that side of the ball, so of course Baylor’s up-tempo offense would be too much for them. Granted, K-State’s defense hasn’t been terrific this season either but there was noticeable progress made against Oklahoma State and its no-huddle spread offense last week. You’ve got Ryan Mueller, who’s great at putting pressure on the quarterback, and a good secondary led by safety Ty Zimmerman. Zimmerman, by the way, missed last year’s game, and many fans in Manhattan believe that K-State would’ve won the game had he been available.
Daniel: A 52-24 thrashing of then No. 1 Kansas State last season seems like a little bit too much of a deficit for one defensive player to account for. Anyways, this Baylor football team is better both offensively and defensively than the one that dashed K-State’s dreams last season. I understand your point about Baylor’s easy schedule. But the bottom line is that Baylor was gracious to show mercy to the first four opponents — and Baylor did not lose to its FCS opponent. None of the starters have played even a full three quarters in any game so far. In the Big 12 opener, the Bears took a 56-14 lead into the locker room at halftime against the same West Virginia team that upset the preseason Big 12 favorite and then-No. 11 Oklahoma State the week before. The Bears are a sleeping giant. When they finally play four quarters of all-out football, it could spell disaster for Baylor opponents considering the average margin of victory this season is already over 54 points. K-State has not even scored 54 points in any game all season.
Sean: All that proves is that Baylor has yet to face any adversity this season. West Virginia is not a good team, and they bested an Oklahoma State team that was already on its third road trip of the season. Baylor, on the other hand, hasn’t left Waco all season, and playing on the road in the Big 12 is tougher than in possibly any other conference in the country. And K-State’s record isn’t indicative of the talent level this team has. The Wildcats have beaten themselves with penalties and turnovers. If the Wildcats can limit those —which they can against a weaker defense like Baylor — then that bodes well for Bill Snyder and his team.
Daniel: Could it be that Baylor is just a really good team this year? Because the No. 2 Oregon Ducks also have not faced any adversity this season. The numbers that Baylor’s offense is putting up this year are historic. The Bears are the top offense in the nation in both points per game (70.5) and yards per game (779.5). Against West Virginia, the Bears racked up 369 yards of offense in the first quarter and 617 yards in the first half. Both of those marks account for more than any team in any single quarter or half, respectively, in the last 10 years. Baylor broke an all-time Big 12 record with 864 yards against West Virginia. Petty leads the nation in pass efficiency (229.6) and yards per completion (20.12). Junior running back Lache Seastrunk rushed for 180 yards in the first half against West Virginia and is second in the nation averaging 147.3 yards per game. The offensive line boasts an All-American in senior left guard Cyril Richardson. Against Baylor’s offensive juggernaut, Kansas State is 58th in scoring offense at 31.2 points per game and 50th in scoring defense allowing 24.4 points per game. Simply put, the Wildcats will have a difficult task in keeping up with Baylor’s record-setting offense.