High School Football

Must WVU keep up with Baylor or is it vice-versa?

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Baylor’s offense isn’t just scary. It’s quick-death, one-false-step-you’re-sliced-to-bits, Raizo in “Ninja Assassin” scary.

But is it the best in the nation, or even in the Big 12?

The stats answer yes, though the schedule clouds the issue a little.

That’s not to question Bryce Petty’s elite quarterbacking, Shock Linwood’s gap gashing or that squadron of wide receivers who singe turf on go routes. Art Briles has stockpiled fast athletes who like to play fast, and their numbers boggle the brain.

Yet amid Baylor’s rapid climb to prominence—securing a Heisman, a BCS bowl and a modish stadium within the block of three years—the nonconference schedule still fits with the destitute program Briles inherited.

So when a badass offense throws up badass numbers against the likes of Buffalo, SMU and Northwestern State (teams with a combined 2-10 record against FBS teams), the extent of badassness comes into question.

Sure, a 61-58 victory over TCU carries massive credibility, especially after Baylor reeled off 24 points in the final 10:39. Yet as the national media begins painting Baylor as an unmatched entity, West Virginia craves a chance to prove it’s equally effective.

“People talk about who has the best offense, but not everyone plays the same teams,” said West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett. “You find out when you play each other.”

As the Big 12’s top two statistic offenses prepare to play each other Saturday at noon, let’s weigh the results (and the competition) so far:

Baylor leads the nation in points (52.7) and yards (622) per game, while WVU’s offense stands 27th in scoring (36.7) and eighth in yards (552). Baylor has done that against five FBS opponents who carry an average national ranking of 81st in scoring defense, whereas West Virginia’s five defensive opponents average out to 60th.

Baylor’s toughest test came at Texas (No. 17 in scoring defense), where the Bears’ offense put up 21 points in a 28-7 victory. West Virginia’s thorniest challenge was a 33-23 neutral-site loss to Alabama (No. 3 statistically), whereby the Mountaineers also benefited from a special-teams touchdown.

WVU’s Kevin White tops the nation in receiving yards and catches per game. “That’s pretty good,” said coordinator Shannon Dawson. “That’s probably better than any of (Baylor’s) guys.”

Despite 7-of-22 passing for 111 yards vs. Texas and missing the Northwestern State game with an injury, Petty remains a prominent candidate for the Heisman, which has gone to a quarterback 12 of the last 13 years. Trickett completed 29-of-45 for 365 yards against Alabama, ranks third nationally in passing yards per game (367) and sits ahead of Petty in passing efficiency.

Not that Trickett is hyping the positional matchup.

“You’re never playing against the other quarterback,” he said. “If you are then you’d probably think Texas Tech beat us last week because Davis Webb had better numbers, just like when I had better numbers against Trevor Knight and Oklahoma beat us. It never turns out like that.”

Yet teams certainly play with a chip at the slightest sign of disrespect, and the signs are billboard-sized this week. Baylor represents the most dangerous attack in the land and WVU hopes to keep .

Throw in the fact that Kevin White tops the country in catches and receiving yards per game—and that WVU and Baylor each have one game this season with dual 100-yard rushers—and this matchup starts to look more and more like the dead heat of 2012 as opposed to the Bears’ romp of 2013.

So maybe the media missed the point this week in asking members of the Mountaineers’ offense how they planned to keep pace with Baylor. No one sounded more appropriately irked than offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson when asked whether about his receivers having a chance to prove they’re as talented a Baylor’s.

“I think our guys have played pretty well all year, regardless of the pub they get,” he said. “I think one of our guys is leading the nation—am I right? That’s pretty good. That’s probably better than any of their guys.”

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