Baylor-Texas Tech Preview
With nonconference play out of the way, Baylor's run of 700-yard offensive outputs should be coming to an end with a measure of order restored among Big 12 competition.
Not so fast. There might not be such a thing as order in the Big 12 in 2015.
Texas Tech just allowed that kind of regulation plunder to a top-five team last weekend and came within three points of a win. If the fifth-ranked Bears can keep their streak going Saturday against the Red Raiders in Arlington, they'll become the only team in 20 years to put up 700 yards in four straight games.
Dating to 1996, the only FBS school other than Art Briles' current group to have three straight games with 700 yards was his 2013 team. That squad missed out on 700 in its opener against Wofford by eight yards and carried it into its first Big 12 game with 872 against West Virginia.
Method of attack hasn't much mattered yet with Baylor (3-0, 0-0) leading the FBS with 379.7 rushing yards per game. It ranks seventh in passing at 387.3, but that's coming on a comparatively modest 31.7 attempts.
Seth Russell's 12.4 yards per attempt leads Division I, with the nearest FBS mark more than 1 1/2 yards off. The efficiency also appears on the scoreboard with 15 of his 80 attempts going for scores, which easily leads all of Division I at 18.8 percent.
The Bears have upped the production each week to an average of 767.0 and also scored at least 56 points in ascending order for a Division I-leading average of 64.0.
Russell was 12 of 16 for 277 yards and six touchdowns in last Saturday's 70-17 home win over Rice. Shock Linwood gained 158 yards on 16 carries to up his yards per carry to 8.6, Terence Williams added 111 on 19 rushes and No. 3 back Johnny Jefferson ran nine times for 86 yards, though that actually dropped his season average to 10.2 yards per carry.
"We work to be perfect in everything we do," Russell said. "We're not going to be perfect, but that's something that we really strive for each day in practice."
Pursuit of a third straight Big 12 title now begins, and Briles at least expects a more even playing field, even if the offensive saturation remains.
"Instead of kind of being the hunted so much, it kind of equals out when you get into conference play because we're all playing for those glass trophies that I've got sitting in my office," said Briles, whose team has started 3-0 in conference play the last two seasons. "We're all playing for the same thing. We've got a little bit of hunt in us coming this week."
That could be true considering Texas Tech's 55-52 home loss to then-No. 3 TCU last Saturday in which the Red Raiders surrendered 750 yards. Five of FBS' top 19 scoring teams are from the Big 12, and Baylor, Texas Tech (53.8) and TCU (51.0) are among the top five.
Once lopsided in favor of Texas Tech with a 15-game winning streak over the Bears, the rivalry has shifted to Baylor's advantage with four straight wins. That's evened the series at 36-36-1 entering the seventh year of it being played at the Dallas Cowboys' home.
Baylor's last loss to an unranked team in a home or neutral environment was Oct. 13, 2012 to TCU, going 15-0 since with an average winning margin of 40.7 points in such games, with only two decided by fewer than 10 points. However, those both came against Texas Tech over the past four seasons, including a 48-46 win Nov. 29.
The Red Raiders' Pat Mahomes threw for a Big 12 freshman-record 598 yards and six touchdowns in last season's meeting.
Texas Tech (3-1, 0-1) might have more trouble keeping up this time around if Mahomes isn't able to play due to a left knee injury. The sophomore, considered day to day, was hurt in the first quarter against TCU but remained in the game wearing a brace with limited mobility. Coach Kliff Kingsbury balanced things out with a season-high 39 rushing attempts and five scores on the ground.
DeAndre Washington had 188 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries. Mahomes went 25 of 45 for 392 yards and two touchdowns.
"(Mahomes) wasn't his normal self, I think you could see that," said Kingsbury, whose team has lost its last eight regular-season games against the Top 25 by an average of 19.6 points.