The Baylor Bears have secured the No. 2 ranking in the nation, the highest ever in school history. However, the Bears are not reveling in their success just yet, as there is still another half of the season to be played.
“We have to go do a job. I think it shows a great perception for our football program and this University and the Big 12, but other than that, as you mentioned, it’s at the end that matters,” said head coach Art Briles of the historic ranking.
The Bears will look to defend their ranking, as well as their reputation, against the true grind of their schedule. The Bears will face three opponents currently ranked in the top 25 from here on out, and it all starts with West Virginia.
The Mountaineers have the Big 12’s most efficient defense, ranking 13th nationally in defensive efficiency, as well. With the toughest defense they have faced yet, the Bears are still confident they can stick to their gameplan and secure a victory.
“This year we are going to have to stick to our plan and do what we do best, and that’s scoring points,” said junior quarterback Seth Russell.
Scoring points is something that Baylor has done a tremendous job of this season, as they lead the nation with 64.2 points per game. Baylor remains the only team in the nation to be ranked in passing offense and rushing offense, as they have managed to average 725 total yards per game this year.
For Baylor fans, West Virginia represents something larger as well. The Mountaineers were able to defeat Baylor 41-27 last season in Morgantown, the Bears’ only regular season loss. This year, the game will be played in Waco, where the Bears have won 18 straight. However, Baylor does not look at this contest as a “revenge game,” but just another game on the schedule.
“It’s important for us to defend our home turf. When anyone steps foot in Waco, it’s our job to run them out of here. They outdid us last year, so we have a little bit of an edge going into this game. We’re ready to get that bad taste out of our mouth,” said junior receiver Corey Coleman.
For Coleman, that “bad taste” has perhaps motivated him to a level of play unseen before by a Baylor player. With only 5 games to his credit, Coleman has racked up an astounding 13 touchdown receptions, the top in the nation. His 678 yards are also fifth in the nation.
Defensively, the Bears will look to stop a West Virginia attack that has been very balanced so far in 2015. The Mountaineers rank 18th in the country in terms of total yards per game, while also ranking in the top 30 in both passing and rushing. This will be the best offense Baylor has seen all season, a challenge the Bears are looking forward to especially after the loss last season.
“We [treat] each game like a playoff game. We know that we can’t take any team lightly because any team in the Big 12 could upset anyone. We can’t take any game lightly if we want to accomplish our goal of being in the playoffs,” said sophomore nickelback Travon Blanchard.
While the Bears rank 50th in total yards allowed per game, that statistic is somewhat faulty. With the quick, explosive nature of the Bears’ offense, the defense is on the field for many more snaps, allowing opposing offense’s to gain yards after the game is far out of reach.
The number one unit for the Bears defensively has vastly improved since the start of the season, especially the secondary. While the concern for Baylor lay heavily on the play of their pass defense last season, the Bears have certainly stepped up, especially cornerback Xavien Howard.
“He’s got good ball skills, and that’s what usually a separating factor on the defensive side of the ball. If you can find a defensive back with good ball skills, they’ll have the potential to make a lot of big plays for you because they’re going to be around the ball a bunch,” said Briles of Howard’s play this season, who leads the team with 3 interceptions.
The Bears will look to extend their nation-leading 18 home winning streak at 11:00 AM this Saturday. The forecast for Saturday includes clear skies and a high of 84, great football weather. Coverage for the game will also be provided by FOX.