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How Much More Can the Baylor Offense Score?

In an era of inflated offensive production throughout college football, no program’s offense is any more pumped up than Baylor’s.

The Bears led the nation in scoring each of the last two seasons at 48.2 points per game in 2014 and 52.4 in 2013. Baylor doesn’t just score, either. Under Art Briles, Baylor has ushered in a unique style that, with outputs of 63 against West Virginia in 2012, 69-plus in five of its first six of 2013 and 61 last season vs. TCU, make the football Bears a higher-scoring team than some of the squads in college basketball — quite literally.

Everything has its limitations, even the constant fast-break that is the Baylor offense. Frightening as it seems, however, the Bears haven’t quite redlined under Briles.

The 2015 Baylor offense has the pieces to be the most explosive of this era. Those lamenting this new style, like Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’s Bret Bielema, might want to reach for heart medication, because grassketball is just getting warmed up.

Baylor returns eight of its 11 offensive starters from 2014, including four from the offensive line and three from the nation’s best receiving corps. Throw in 1,200-yard rusher Shock Linwood, and the Bears are loaded with playmakers who are comfortable with Briles’ playbook, which his son, Kendal, takes over as offensive coordinator.

And lest you think that playbook is all about speed or attacking the perimeter, Briles’ promise of lining up 410-pound tight end LaQuan McGowan provides plenty of steak to go with the uptempo sizzle. From the basketball analogy, it’s a little bit like Nolan Richardson throwing some weight around in his 40 Minutes of Hell high-paced style with the “Big Nasty,” Corliss Williamson.

Baylor loses quarterback Bryce Petty, who put up Heisman-caliber numbers in 2014. Most programs are left scrambling parting with a signal-caller registering such statistics.

In Waco, it’s become the norm.

Quarterback is the position a Briles-coached is perhaps best equipped to replace, as Baylor’s progression from Robert Griffin III to Nick Florence to Petty demonstrates.

Seth Russell is a freak athlete — as detailed by Matt Hayes of Sporting News — whose exploits on the basketball court fittingly suggest an aptitude for thriving in the Baylor offense.

November 29, 2014: Baylor Bears quarterback Seth Russell (17) carries the ball and slides by Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Thierry Nguema (17) during the game TFBI Shootout between the Texas Tech University Red Raiders and Baylor University Bears at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Baylor wins against Texas Tech, 48-46.

Seth Russell’s athleticism will provide yet another weapon in Art Briles’ offense.

Russell will air out the pass plenty, but Dallas Morning News reports of him having boasting a 4.49-second 40-yard dash time means you can anticipate him taking off on the run more like Griffin than former teammate Petty.

So just how high is the ceiling on this Baylor offense? 55 points per game? Could the Bears really put up 60 per, a number that would trump 25 Div. I basketball teams in 2014-’15?

Any limitation set on what Baylor can achieve offensively depends on how the Bears fare defensively. And, perhaps ironically, the Bears’ best hope for winning a national championship rides on the offense not reaching its full potential.

The above-mentioned deluges that showcased the full extent of Briles’ offensive acumen also exposed the worst of Baylor’s defense. While the Bears had no trouble hanging 70 points on a woeful nonconference foe like Northwestern State — and Briles doesn’t mind playing such competition — scoring 63 against West Virginia or 61 against TCU was a product of necessity.

Such contests truly emulated basketball games in their back-and-forth pacing. Baylor’s quick scores on one end were answered in short order on the other.

It’s still a problem that vexes the Bears, despite considerable strides from 2012, when Baylor ranked No. 113 in the FBS in points allowed per game. The Bears dug a deep hole against TCU last October, which Petty had to throw them out of. In January’s Cotton Bowl, Michigan State rattled off 21 unanswered points to steal a 42-41 win.

Of the Spartans’ three fourth-quarter touchdowns, two were scored on drives of 71 and 81 yards, which lasted just 2:09 and 48 seconds, respectively. That loss demonstrated the danger of relying on the offense to cancel out defensive lapses, as Baylor’s inability to respond to Michigan State’s quick scores ultimately sank the Bears.

This coming season’s Baylor offense certainly has the ability to score at historic levels, but if the Bears are to compete for the College Football Playoff, they would be better off not doing so.

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