Welcome to Big 12 football, and the Baylor Bears

The Baylor Bears have scored at least 45 points in seven straight games.

Of course, only three of those seven games have been played here in 2012. The other four came when the high-flying scoring circus had Heisman Trophy quarterback RGIII at the helm of the green and gold offensive machine.
It’s bells and whistles week in Morgantown. Hoopla. Expectations. Baylor comes in for the first-ever Big 12 game.
Baylor is unbeaten — beating June Jones and his SMU Mustangs, 59-24, at home in Waco; then drubbing lightweight Sam Houston State, 48-23, in Waco; and only last week avoiding an upset on the road with a 47-42 escape-win at Louisiana-Monroe.
West Virginia University is likewise unbeaten — beating Marshall, 69-34, at home in Morgantown; moving on cruise control past James Madison, 42-12, at FedEx Field in Redskin Land; and finally getting to the Big 12 schedule after a 31-21 win over visiting Maryland at Mountaineer Field.
Unbeatens and Untesteds on Saturday in the Big 12 opener at 12-noon on FX television.
Nick Florence has the quarterback’s job for Coach Art Briles. Florence completed 26-of-39 passes against Louisiana-Monroe. His 351 yards were a routine night for Big 12 quarterbacks. But Louisiana-Monroe rang up 560 yards of total offense against the Bears. Again, a routine night of an ebbing defense for a Big 12 team.
Louisiana-Monroe had beaten Arkansas in overtime and lost to Auburn in overtime. The Warhawks were not the Idaho Vandals or the Youngstown State Penguins.
Against Maryland, the Mountaineers were troubled by a lack of yardage on the ground. There were 25 rushing attempts and 25 yards gained. And while it’s true the Big 12 is rightly known for its white-lightning offenses, if a team can’t do a little running against Kansas State, Texas, or Oklahoma then it’s unlikely it will be able to throw for 550 yards and win a 48-47 overhead brawl.
In its three games, West Virginia has run for a total of 477 yards and 5.5 yards per carry. The three opponents have only 366 rushing yards and a puny 2.8 yards per carry average against the WVU defense.
Geno Smith has 1,072 passing yards. He has completed a staggering 96-for-118 (81.4 percent) of his many throws. Already a dozen touchdowns. And no interceptions. He has only been sacked twice.
Tavon Austin has 34 catches and five touchdowns. Stedman Bailey has 28 catches and five touchdowns. Double Trouble for opposing defenses.
But those three mostly ordinary opponents have combined to throw for 830 yards and five touchdowns. Maryland freshman Perry Hills completed 20-of-29 throws for 305 yards and all three Maryland scores.
Anticipation is racing through the state. As broadcaster Jack Fleming would have said: “The hills are alive with the sound of West Virginia football.”
And the Baylor Bears are WVU’s first Big 12 league game.
Can either team run successfully? Can either team hold the other to “just” 280 passing yards?
The expected sellout crowd of 60,000 will be snorting and breathing the “big game” fire associated with a game of national importance played between two teams ranked in the Top 25.
It’s more than Geno Smith vs. Nick Florence. But how much more is the question.


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