MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There are spread offenses in the Big 12 Conference and then there is Baylor's spread offense.
"Just wait until you see Baylor's splits," West Virginia defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said.
No one positions their outside receivers farther from the quarterback and closer to the sideline than Baylor. No one pushes their inside receivers outside as far as the Bears.
No one who plays defense for the ninth-ranked Mountaineers could believe what they saw in preparation for Saturday's noon game against No. 25 Baylor at Mountaineer Field (FX telecast).
"I didn't realize how big the field was until we started to practice against it," inside linebacker Doug Rigg said. "When I saw it, I thought, 'Wow, this could be a big problem.' "
The Bears (3-0) are like WVU (3-0) and feature a shotgun offense with three or four receivers. What's a virtual constant, no matter how many receivers are on either side of the quarterback, is how Baylor manufactures space.
The outside receivers are almost always outside the number and close to the sideline. An inside receiver is usually only a few steps closer to the quarterback.
Even in sets with three receivers on one side, Baylor is able to space them out enough to allow for a variety of routes and passes, but also enable them to run block and create creases. When three receivers are on one side and a fourth receiver is outside the numbers on the other side, the fourth is often alone in one-on-one coverage.
"It's very unique," DeForest said. "They throw a ton of deep passes, so they make you defend them vertically, but they also make you defend them horizontally when they space you out, which is a problem. When they split guys out, you've got to defend them and that opens up the middle."
The space creates a number of concerns defending the run, the pass and the plays when Baylor quarterback Nick Florence has an option to run or pass based on the look the defense presents.
Spreading out receivers expands the defense and forces safeties back, which creates space for routes and makes Baylor's deep passes dangerous. If a defense opens up to better defend the pass, the offense can run.
The predicament puts WVU's defense, and especially the linebackers, in conflict. The inside linebackers can be left alone against the run or be asked to run outside to pursue receivers.