MORGANTOWN, W.VA. (AP) - West Virginia’s festive arrival in the Big 12 even has Baylor pumped up.
The 25th-ranked Bears (3-0) would like nothing more than to make it a shaky debut for the ninth-ranked Mountaineers (3-0) in the team’s conference opener Saturday.
This much is for sure: fans who miss even a minute of action on the field might be asking “what happened?” These teams average a combined 98 points a game.
“From what I’ve been told it’s going to be awesome,” Baylor quarterback Nick Florence said. “First Big 12 game, they’ll be excited. Their fans will be excited and so will we. They have a lot to prove and so will we.”
Baylor wants to prove it belongs in the rankings while seeking a school record-tying 10th straight win. So far, the Bears are doing fine without Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. But their defense, which allows 315 passing yards per game, has yet to face someone like West Virginia’s Geno Smith. And a rugged Big 12 schedule still lies ahead.
Likewise, the Mountaineers will have their hands full trying to slow down Florence, the nation’s leader in total offense with a penchant for taking off with the ball.
“We’re going to try to make him one dimensional,” said West Virginia linebacker Isaiah Bruce. “But as much as he widens the field, it’s going to be a challenge to keep him contained.”
Baylor is one of seven FBS teams averaging at least 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing. Bears wide receivers Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese each average more than 20 yards a catch.
Coupled with West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who are first and third nationally, respectively, in receptions per game, the expected aerial show will keep the statisticians hopping.
West Virginia is looking to validate its top 10 perch and will be pressed to stop Baylor’s streak of seven straight games of more than 40 points. During its winning streak, the Bears have surpassed 500 yards of offense in every game.
The deciding factor could be which defense is less porous. Baylor is giving up 493 yards per game, West Virginia 398.
“We have got to cover the field sideline to sideline because of their splits, and we have to make sure that they don’t get behind us because they have got great speed and they are going to run the ball,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “They are going to run the ball 50 percent of the time, and then they are going to take shots down field. If you are successful one out of three times, that is pretty good.”
Florence threw for 351 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in a 47-42 win at Louisiana-Monroe last week, but only after his two interceptions helped put Baylor in a 14-0 hole.
“We can’t do that this week. We’ve got to protect the football and execute well,” Florence said.
Smith, who’s averaging 357 yards passing, said the Mountaineers aren’t looking at it as needing to match Baylor point for point.