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Charles Davis: Red-hot Baylor Bears should be taken seriously

Despite Baylor's ridiculous start to the season, it appears college football observers are not yet sold on the team. The Bears (4-0) rank first in the nation with 70.5 points per game and 779.5 yards per game; Oregon is a distant second in both categories, with 59.2 points per game and 630.4 yards per game. The Bears' average margin of victory is a whopping 54.3 points.

Yet, Baylor does not even crack the top 10 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. It's ranked 15th, behind four teams that already have one loss.

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Could Baylor be this season's West Virginia? Remember, Geno Smith led the Mountaineers to a 5-0 start last season, including a 70-63 win over Baylor, before they crashed and burned, losing six of their last eight to close out 2012.

Baylor's schedule has been soft -- their wins have been against Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia. In fact, I think West Virginia's early-season slate last season was much tougher.

Last week's game against West Virginia was supposed to be the first test for the Bears, but the Mountaineers didn't prove to be much of a challenge, and Baylor won, 73-42.

The schedule gets more difficult for Baylor starting this weekend at Kansas State. It's a dangerous game for the Bears. The Wildcats make you work. However, I lean toward the Bears being legitimate. It's not their fault they're beating up on these weaker teams. Legit teams do exactly what they're doing. They go and crush the competition.

Here are a few reasons I think they are for real:

1. Art Briles is one of college football's best coaches

He's done this everywhere he's been. Do I expect Baylor to put 70 points on everyone they play? No, that's not realistic. Do I expect big point totals? Take a look at how they've been built up over the years.

Briles is one of the best coaches out there. If people didn't believe it before, they're believing it now.

2. Offensive firepower

Every year the Bears just keep replacing weapons. Terrance Williams, a third-round pick out of Baylor this year, is racking up huge numbers for the Dallas Cowboys. What's left behind at wide receiver? Just Antwan Goodley, who is having a breakout season.

Baylor has one of college football's top QB-RB tandems in Bryce Petty and Heisman Trophy candidate Lache Seastrunk. Up front, NFL prospect Cyril Richardson leads a very solid offensive line.

This is what Briles does. He molds great players over and over again.

3. Defensive improvement

The key to why I "lean legitimate" when it comes to Baylor is its improved defense. In the past, if the Bears didn't outscore its opponent they were dead in the water. The defense really started to show it was making strides in the last four or five games last season, and it has carried over this year.

Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett always has been known as a great defensive coach, but his reputation took a hit the last few years because the defense was getting shredded at Baylor. Bennett certainly wasn't alone in that regard -- a lot of bright defensive minds have had their "guru" label taken away in recent years, with offenses shredding just about everyone. The Baylor defense is playing better with safety Ahmad Dixon and linebacker Bryce Hager leading the way. That's the extra piece to them, and it makes them really dangerous. I don't think every game has to be a shootout for Baylor. The defense can make some plays now, and offensively the Bears are going to be very tough to stop.

Baylor vs. Oklahoma could decide who wins Big 12

This isn't just a feel-good story. Baylor has a shot to win the Big 12 title. Most people are probably leaning toward Oklahoma because the Sooners have a more proven track record.

Yes, Baylor's early-season schedule understandably gives pause to some. Beating the likes of Wofford and Louisiana-Monroe isn't going to make anyone take notice. But if Baylor goes into Manhattan, Kan., and lays waste to Kansas State on Saturday, I think the whole country gets on board. Very winnable games against Iowa State and Kansas will follow before a Nov. 7 home showdown against the Sooners, which could determine the Big 12 title.

I don't think this is a mirage. I think this is a very good football team. How good? They can give us a pretty good hint this weekend.

Follow Charles Davis on Twitter @CFD22.

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