Revenge is always a popular storyline in college football. With more and more classic rivalries being altered or lost due to conference realignment, it’s become increasingly popular pregame hype material.
A lot of coaches will push it under the rug, at least publicly, and that’s exactly what Baylor head coach Art Briles is doing this week in regard to his team’s matchup with West Virginia.
Were it not for a disastrous October afternoon in Morgantown last season, the Bears would have found themselves in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Instead, after a 41-27 defeat at the hands of the Mountaineers, they found themselves sharing the Big 12 title with TCU.
“We never use the word revenge. We’re just trying to keep going with what we’ve got going right now. We’ve got nobody to fault for last year except for us. If we’re going to revenge somebody it’s going to be us. That’s really the way we’ve always approached everything. We’ve got a job to do and we’ve got to do it. We couldn’t do it a year ago,” Briles said.
Baylor was the No. 4 team in the country at the time, facing a seemingly outmatched West Virginia team that was just beginning to find its identity.
The pregame script is a bit different this year. Baylor is still a juggernaut. The Bears come into this matchup ranked No. 2 in the country, but West Virginia is a much different team this year. The Mountaineers have struggled to find consistency on offense against Big 12 opponents the last two weeks, and are in the midst of the toughest month of their schedule.
Baylor’s offense hasn’t experienced anything close to what you would call a struggle since last year’s game in Morgantown.
With a full arsenal of high flying talent at his disposal, Briles has orchestrated an offensive masterpiece so far this season. The Bears rank No. 4 in the country in total offense, and have put up a jaw-dropping 64.2 points per game.
Despite the fast start to the seasons, Briles isn’t ready to let his offense bask in the glow of its achievements yet. In fact, there is still room for the Bears to grow on that side of the ball.
“We’ve only played five games. I still think there’s a lot of opportunities out there for us from a team stand point, not just offensively and defensively, and of course special teams. All those questions will be answered beginning this Saturday quite honestly. Time usually determines reality, and I think that’s what will happen as this season progresses for us,” Briles said.
During the first few years of Baylor’s rise to national prominence, the Bears were accustomed to having a potent offensive outfit, but they needed every bit of it because their defense was getting blown away.
Now, under defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, the Bears rank in the top half of the Big 12 in all of the major team defense stats, giving opponents a much more well-rounded group to prepare for every week.
“I think they’re starting to gel a little bit and feel comfortable with each other, in what they’re doing and in coach Bennett and his system. That’s the part that gives us a chance to be pretty good,” Briles said.