There's not exactly any understating when it comes to the standard deviations between Baylor and the rest of college football offensively in the first half of 2013. Though the Bears have navigated extremely calm waters from a strength of schedule perspective (for any and all due criticisms to Sagarin's methodologies, for example's sake, the Bears rank as his 149th most difficult schedule to point, trailing even the likes of FCS Northern Arizona, Stony Brook, & Portland State), the Bears are fresh off a conference record 864 yards of total offense (617 in the first half alone) in a game that inexplicably made West Virginia look even more hapless on defense than Maryland managed to in a 37-0 shutout loss.
During each successive week, whether the Bears manage to match their lofty self standards from the weeks prior or not, the Baylor offensive brain trust manage to leave some kind of statistical superlative and/or execute a playcalling sequence that leaves even casual football fans with their jaws dropped. And the nation best 70.5 points per game (10 plus better than ever impressive Oregon) and 779.5 net yards per contest (almost 150 loftier than the Ducks) begins between the ears of Art Briles.
Baylor's most recent win makes the Bears the first team since the 1930 LSU Tigers to score at least 70 points in three consecutive games, and it's taken considerable restraint to keep those games from being much worse.
Make no mistake about it, the arm of Bryce Petty and the video game physics of Lache Seastrunk don't exactly play a small part in the end product, but the Bears' architect has his DNA permeating throughout every subdetail of the program. The Bears's coach sat down in depth with SB Nation's Spencer Hall this past summer and discussed the genesis of the offensive phalanx causing defensive coordinators across the country to lose sleep weekly now:
SH: When you were at Stephenville High School, you were one of the first coaches to make a switch from the traditional run-first approach to a pass-first, spread offense. You were running… was it the wishbone or wing-T?
Four state championships from 1988 to 1999, all done in a town of 15,000 located about an hour and a half outside of Waco. Stephenville is between Fort Worth and Abilene on the east/west axis, Fort Hood and Wichita Falls from north to south, and is in the middle of nowhere in terms of theoretical football power. Art Briles' whole career hasn't had much to do with what is theoretically possible.AB: Split-back veer.
SH: A pretty conventional high school offense. Why did you do that? Did people think you were crazy at the time?
AB: Actually, it started with my first college football job coaching in Hamlin in '84-'85. My first year there, we had a great football team, ran the split-back veer, went 13-0-1. In the second year, I saw that if you got deep in the playoffs, you're gonna face people with talent just as good or better than yours. So what I looked for was an edge, something different; so in '85 we went to the one-back, four wides and went 14-1.
When we got to Stephenville, we were always kind of based out of a split-back veer look. I played at Houston, played in the Houston veer, sat in meetings with Coach Yeoman. A lot of the terminology we use today is Houston veer-related, if you hear the verbiage.
At Stephenville, we definitely had to do something that gave ourselves a chance to get the opportunity to win football games. We weren't just gonna line up and beat people. We had to be a little unconventional, which we were. In 1990 we had a guy throw for over 3,000 yards, and then had a 3,000-yard passer every year over the next 10 years. In '98 we actually set a national record for total offense.
8,664 yards, a 15-1 record, and a state title. Poor, poor Joshua High School.
Briles' straight out of Friday Night Lights manner of carrying himself extends to all areas of his coaching persona, and it comes as no surprise that the coach makes it a special point to give back to the community in addition to giving the people of neighboring cities something to cheer for on the field.
After the devastating explosion and subsequent fires in nearby West, Texas this past April, Briles and the program worked with West community leaders to lend aid. The university donated $500 per point to the rebuilding efforts there this past Saturday, as well as invited all citizens and first responders from the small town to take in the dominant victory over WVU. In addition to the residents of West being honored at half time, Briles' Bear team's helmets were adorned with commemorative stickers to pay homage to those affected by the tragedy.
Though there's plenty of reason to wonder what might happen when the Bears run head on into the more upper echelon Big XII defenses in conference play, it's also not fair to dismiss Briles and the Bears' meteoric rise to start 2013 prematurely. FSH's own Bill Connelly:
But realize this: What Baylor's doing right now is unprecedented. West Virginia was not doing this last year. Oregon has never done this. If Baylor's offense continues to hum at this rate, the Bears' defense will only need to make a few stops per game, and right now it appears more than capable of doing that (while still suffering breakdowns). Do not lump Baylor in with previous all-offense, no-defense squads, even those who have played in Waco the last few years. And my goodness, stop ranking them below three one-loss teams and undefeated (and far less proven) teams like Oklahoma, Miami, and Louisville. There is absolutely no excuse for Baylor to rank worse than about seventh right now.
With the latest F/+ rankings due out shortly, it's probable to expect the Bears to continue to top college football in this week's iteration. Hot on the heels of a potential fourth consecutive 70 point offensive game, the only real question isn't whether or not Art Briles deserves to be on the shortlist for college football's coach of the year; it's whether anyone out there can stop his offense. Perhaps the Big XII's senior statesman, Kansas State's Bill Snyder, put it best:
Bill Snyder on the challenge against Baylor: "Keep 'em from scoring more than a hundred points, I guess."— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 7, 2013
You can vote Briles for Liberty Mutual's Coach of the Year at CoachoftheYear.com.