Who will have the best offense in college football this season?
The Bears essentially won that argument last year after leading the nation in points (52.4), yards (618.8), 20-yard plays (112) and yards per pass attempt (10.4).
ESPN Stats & Info has put together a case why the Bears might have the country’s best offense again. And why they might not.
The case for:
Quarterback Bryce Petty was responsible for 46 touchdowns last season, the most of any returning quarterback. He had only six turnovers, too.
The Bears bring back five of their top six receivers, including Antwan Goodley, who led the Big 12 with 1,339 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns.
Baylor did lose running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, but projected starter Shock Linwood averaged 3.5 yards after contact per carry last season, which was tops among all BCS-AQ conference running backs with at least 100 carries.
Baylor scored 60 touchdowns in 2 minutes or less last season, the most of any team in at least the last decade. The Bears’ average touchdown drive lasted only 1 minute, 32 seconds. With Petty back to run the show, there’s no reason to believe Baylor will operate any slower this season.
The case against:
The Baylor offense fell back to Earth down the stretch while facing tougher opponents. The Bears faced only two defenses that ranked in the top 40 nationally in efficiency their first nine games. In those nine games, Baylor averaged 61.2 points, 8.5 yards per play and 684.8 yards per game,and was on pace to break several FBS records. But in their final four games, the Bears faced three defenses that ranked in the top 40 in efficiency. In those games, Baylor averaged just 32.5 points, 5.4 yards per play and 470.2 yards per game.
While Petty and Goodley are back, the Bears lost three starting linemen, including Outland finalist Cyril Richardson. Petty struggled at times under pressure last season, completing only 8 of 27 passes for 113 yards and no touchdowns while under pressure.
Seastrunk was the team’s leading rusher with a Big 12-best 1,117 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Martin added 514 yards and seven scores.
ESPN Stats & Info also surmises that Florida State and Oregon could have stronger offenses than Baylor in 2014.
Florida State led the country last year in yards per play (7.7) and points per drive (3.7). Those, in fact, were the best totals since Hawaii in 2006. The Seminoles return several key players offensively, including reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston.
The Ducks' offense again will feature quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is one of only two quarterbacks to post two seasons of a QBR score of 86 or better since 2004 (Boise State’s Kellen Moore was the other). Oregon also brings back its top two running backs from last season in Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. And the Ducks were second nationally in 2013 in yards per game (565) and yards per play (7.6).
ESPN Stats & Info conclusion:
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index’s predictive offensive metric, Florida State and Oregon have college football’s top offenses heading into 2014. Despite Baylor’s gaudy output last season, FPI projects Auburn to have a better offense than the Bears, too.
Here are FPI’s top five projected best offenses, according to predicted offensive efficiency:
1. Florida State: +17.0
2. Oregon: +16.8
3. Auburn: +13.9
4. Baylor: +13.6
5. UCLA: +13.2