Baylor fattens stats with soft schedule


High-powered offenses always attract bettors. No coach in college football is scoring more points with the public than Art Briles, the architect of Baylor’s attack.

Junior quarterback Bryce Petty is setting a fast pace in the Big 12 Conference, passing for 2,023 yards and 15 touchdowns in six games. Lache Seastrunk leads the league with 126.7 rushing yards per game. The offensive line has more than one NFL prospect.

The Bears, who lead the nation in scoring and total offense at 64.7 points and 714 yards per game, are loaded with playmakers. After watching them hang 69 points or more on five of their six opponents this season, the question has to be asked, who is going to stop this freight train?

Baylor has been on an incredible run since upending Kansas State’s national championship hopes last November. The Bears blew out UCLA in the Holiday Bowl and have dominated the bottom half of the Big 12, for the most part.

Call them obvious plays, but Baylor in the first half and game have been automatic bets for me.

The Bears score so quickly on offense, and now they are better on defense and special teams. But let’s take a step back and analyze their schedule.

Briles is beating up on teams that are simply weak, beginning with Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe and Iowa State.

West Virginia exposed a few weaknesses in the Baylor defense in a 73-42 loss in Waco, Texas. Kansas State, a 17-point home underdog on Oct. 12, gave the Bears a run for their money deep into the fourth quarter of a 35-25 loss.

The Bears are 5-1 against the spread and have the toughest part of their schedule approaching after Saturday’s game at Kansas, a 35-point home underdog. Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas Christian and Texas remain, and probably four of those teams have the ability to beat Baylor.

The key to slowing the train was revealed by Wildcats coach Bill Snyder. To beat the Bears, the opponent must do a few things — limit their plays, slow the tempo of their offense and keep their defense on the field longer to control the pace of play.

Baylor on the road is a much different team than at home. But even the Longhorns, who seem to be hitting their stride at the right time, could march into Waco in early December and stop the Bears’ impressive run. That’s the beauty of the “Any given Saturday” theme of college football.

HOTTIE THREESOME

Each week, I recommend three underdogs that have a real shot to win outright. I call it my “Hottie threesome,” and I also parlay the teams on the money line (Home team in CAPS):

■ Houston (+7) over RUTGERS — The Cougars almost pulled off the upset against Brigham Young in a 47-46 thriller last week. Rutgers is an inconsistent and vulnerable team. Houston is 6-0 ATS, and it’s hard to bet against a strong offensive team on a roll.

■ Boston College (+7) over NORTH CAROLINA — The only time the Tar Heels have covered this season was in a 27-23 defeat to Miami last week. Boston College looked good against Clemson and Florida State well into the fourth quarter. The North Carolina defense is full of holes.

■ Utah (+7) over SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — A week after upsetting Stanford, the Utes dropped the ball in a loss at Arizona. But the Trojans are grossly overrated, and key players are beat up. The hype and excitement when interim coach Ed Orgeron took over was followed by USC’s poor offensive showing in a 14-10 loss at Notre Dame.

NFL BEST BET

■ Atlanta (+2½) over ARIZONA — The line opened pick-’em offshore and briefly moved to 3. The Cardinals are off tough NFC West losses to Seattle and San Francisco, and those games might take a toll. The Falcons have had their struggles, but Matt Ryan is the better quarterback in this matchup. Carson Palmer is a turnover machine for the Cardinals.

Kelly Stewart of kellyinvegas.com can be reached at Askkelly@reviewjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kellyinvegas.