Baylor has played just three games this season. And though none have come against a "quality opponent," it's still hard to overlook how dominant the Bears' offense has been in 2013.
The unit has scored 69, 70 and 70 points in those contests despite taking its foot off the gas in each second half to rest starters. It's scored just 10 points combined in the fourth quarter this year after averaging 22 points per quarter in the other three.
Leading that offense has been junior quarterback Bryce Petty, the latest in a recent line of high-volume passers in Waco. He currently leads the nation in passing efficiency and has looked every bit the part of a sleeper Heisman candidate.
Let's take a second to meet him.
As a Prospect
Like many who have gone on to thrive under Art Briles at Baylor, Petty, a member of the Class of 2010, was not at all a blue-chip prospect.
He was the No. 739 player on 247Sports' composite, ranking 28th among pro-style quarterbacks and 116th among players from Texas.
Here's a brief sampling of pro-style QBs that ranked ahead of him:
Still, coming out of Midlothian High School, a couple of power programs saw potential in the 6'3'', 230-pound gunslinger.
In addition to Baylor, he received scholarship offers from Nebraska, New Mexico and Virginia Tech, while also receiving interest from Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, SMU and South Carolina.
Compared to Baylor Antecedents
Baylor has become something of a "Quarterback U" in the past few years under Briles, starting, obviously, with Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and followed by Nick Florence, who led the nation in passing yards last season.
Starting with Griffin's Heisman campaign in 2011, here is how those quarterbacks have fared in their first three games of the season:
Petty doesn't have the gaudy rushing numbers of either, nor does he have the huge TD totals that Florence posted last year.
But what he does have is the highest QB rating of the three, averaging an efficiency of 246.9 through Baylor's first three games. Like Griffin, he has yet to throw an interception, and he's making the most of each pass.
Cynics might look at these tables and say it devalues Petty's skill. If the two men before him also put up giant numbers, perhaps it's the system—not the quarterback—that deserves to be praised.
But looking at the glass half-full, Griffin and Florence were, physically, two of the best college quarterbacks of the last five years. If it was all the system, would RGIII have really gone on to win NFL Rookie of the Year last season?
That Petty compares (in some ways favorably) with his antecedents is not a bad thing for his stock. It means he might be just as talented.
Where Petty thrives, and where it's most important for a QB to thrive in Briles' offense, is with precise ball placement.
The Bears are loaded with quick, home-run-threat skill players like Lache Seastrunk, Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley. In order to get them going in space, it's paramount for Petty to lead them properly and hit them in stride.
That term—"to hit in stride"—often connotes a lovely deep ball, one where the quarterback places it right in his receiver's hands on a streak. But in this particular offense, it's just as important on short and intermediate routes.
Check out this touchdown pass Petty threw to Goodley against Buffalo.
Petty reads zone on 3rd-and-5, knowing that Goodley, running a slant pattern, should be able to find a hole in it:
Far too often—especially in college—a quarterback will see a window that wide, decide he has a bigger margin for error, then throw a pass his receiver must adjust to.
He takes the pass-catcher out of stride or makes him leap for the ball, which usually (though not always) converts the first down but limits yards after catch.
Petty, though, knowing how lethal Goodley is with the ball in his hands, zips a laser that hits him in stride, allowing him to break free and use his speed for a 83-yard touchdown:
Petty throws a nice traditional deep ball too, but in this offense, slants and crossing routes are more valuable. They make for higher-percentage completions—that is, the risk is much lower—and the Reese-Goodley combo is capable of taking almost any reception for big yardage.
If he keeps delivering perfect strikes in the middle third, Petty will continue to be the perfect quarterback for this offense.