The tests come fiercer and faster each week for West Virginia.
Having already faced current No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 21 Oklahoma State and No. 25 Maryland in the opening month of the season, the Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) now turn to No. 17 Baylor and the country's most explosive offense for a prime-time kickoff tonight in Waco, Texas.
"You get used to it," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said of facing another unbeaten, top-20 team. "It won't catch us by surprise."
The Mountaineers outlasted Baylor, 70-63, last September in Morgantown, but the Bears (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) romped Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe this fall, the slimmest margin of victory being 57 points.
West Virginia (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) vs. Baylor (3-0, 0-0), 8 p.m. today, Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco, Texas. The Bears are favored by 28.
- TV, Radio, Internet:
Fox Sports 1, Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius 113, XM 192.
- West Virginia:
Won the first contest with Baylor, 70-63, a year ago. ... QB Clint Trickett will make his second career West Virginia start. ... Defense has 11 takeaways in five games.
Owns a seven-game winning streak, the fourth-longest active streak in the NCAA. ... Has scored on the first three drives in every game this season and averages 751.3 yards of total offense.
- Hidden stat:
Baylor's 69.7-point scoring average is 10 points better than second-place Oregon. The Bears averaged 44.5 points per game in 2012.
Baylor boasts the top scoring offense (69.7 points per game) and second-best scoring defense (7.7) in Division I. And the Bears are fresh, too, coming off their second open date in three weeks.
The up-tempo, quick-strike Baylor offense, led by junior quarterback Bryce Petty, has scored 25 touchdowns in three games. Eleven of those scoring drives have lasted less than a minute; the longest took just 2:07.
And not a single three-and-out.
"High scoring is in their nature," Holgorsen said. "The more possessions you have, the more plays you can make. The more plays you make, the more opportunities you have to score."
Petty has thrown eight touchdowns to no interceptions, propelling junior Antwan Goodley and senior Tevin Reese among the nation's top-10 receivers, averaging 123.3 and 116.7 yards per game, respectively.
Lump in junior running back Lache Seastrunk, pounding out 139 rushing yards per game, and it's clear that there's no single weapon the West Virginia defense can focus on shutting down.
West Virginia, four-touchdown underdogs, will hand the keys to Clint Trickett, who led the Mountaineers to a 30-21 upset of Oklahoma State last Saturday. After dealing with a sore shoulder this week, Trickett was given a clean bill of health Thursday and again named the starter at quarterback.
Trickett was 24-of-50 passing for 309 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in his first West Virginia start last weekend, but it was the defense that buoyed the Mountaineers with three turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by Ishmael Banks and a game-sealing pick by Darwin Cook.
The defense, much maligned a year ago, is allowing just 19.6 points per game, giving the struggling offense a chance to find its feet.
"I've said this all along -- I don't spend any time looking in the rear-view mirror," defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "I can tell you what they have, though: they have character and discipline, they have a physical toughness and mental toughness to them."
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.