So far this season the Bears biggest test has been Texas Tech, which didn’t look like much of a test at all. West Virginia opened the season with three straight wins before losing two straight Big 12 games to both of the schools from Oklahoma. No matter how this season has started for both teams there is no doubt that West Virginia has Baylor’s full attention after they essentially eliminated the Bears from last season’s College Football Playoff with an upset in Morgantown. It will be interesting to see if Baylor’s desire for revenge and a spot in the playoff is stronger than the Mountaineers need to right their ship before the season is lost.
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 17th, 11:00 CST
LOCATION: McLane Stadium (Waco, TX)
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy, 73° F
TV: FOX / FOX Sports Go
BETTING LINE: Baylor -21.5, O/U 75
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS 3-2 (0-2)
What a difference two weeks of has made for West Virginia’s outlook on their season. Going into the Oklahoma game the Mountaineers were ranked for the first time all season and their offense looked revitalized and defense looked dominant. Oklahoma had a field day passing the ball on the way to a 20 point victory. In their overtime loss to Oklahoma State the offense arrived in the second half where they scored 24 of the teams 26 points before stumbling in overtime to give the Cowboys the win.
The most disconcerting stat from the two losses is the number of turnovers. In their first three games the Mountaineers turned the ball over two times and took the ball away 11 times. In their last two games they’ve given the ball away nine times and taken it away five times. Those numbers are headed in the wrong direction and might spell the end of the Mountaineers bowl hopes if they can’t get them fixed.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR WEST VIRGINIA
Take Away The Run – Baylor likes to run the ball to set up their big pass plays. The Mountaineers have to limit the damage that the Bears do on the ground in order to keep this game close. Seth Russell has looked great all season but he hasn’t been forced to throw the ball a ton, he currently averages 26 passing attempts per game which ranks 8th in the Big 12.
Get Disciplined – The Mountaineers simply cannot afford to turn the ball over and give Baylor extra chances to score. West Virginia currently scores an average of 36 points per game while the Baylor averages 64.2 points per game. In order for the Mountaineers to close the gap between those two numbers they’ll have to play their most disciplined game of the season.
Next Man Up – West Virginia isn’t the only team to have been bitten by the injury bug and the loss of Karl Joseph is a huge blow. With all that being said no other team in Big 12 boasted the Mountaineers depth on defense. They’ll need all that depth and a few unknowns to step up in this game.
#2 BAYLOR BEARS 5-0 (2-0)
There’s no denying that for the past few seasons the Baylor Bears have been one of the top programs in the Big 12 and the nation. This season the Bears have taken their demolition of their opponents to an entirely new level. Through five games the Bears average margin of victory has been 42 points which is first in the nation. To put that into perspective the eighth best scoring team in the country is Arizona who scores 42.3 points a game, when you’re average victory is good enough to be a top ten scoring offense you’re doing something right.
Baylor’s defense has improved significantly and are holding opponents to an average of 22.2 points per game which is a 3.2 point per game improvement from last season and an 26 point improvement from four seasons ago when Baylor started making a name for themselves. The scariest thought for every other fan base in the Big 12 has to be Baylor matching their extremely potent offense with a top 25 level defense.
For Baylor this game represents a chance to rectify a loss that cost them dearly last year. If Baylor playing their normal game results in a 40+ point loss for their opponent I can’t even imagine how big the margin will be in a payback game.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR BAYLOR
Knock Em Out Quickly – In their game against Texas Tech the Baylor offense burst out of the gates when Shock Linwood exploded for a 79 yard touchdown run. That run was a gut punch to the Red Raider defense and set the tone for the rest of the day. If the Bears can come out and score on a couple of quick hits this game should be well in hand before halftime.
Get To Howard – The Bears have a loaded defensive line which means they should be in the Mountaineer backfield all day long. West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard has made more than a few bad passes when pressured. If Howard can’t find a rhythm or get comfortable the Mountaineer’s offense will sputter.
Shock Em – Hand the ball to Shock Linwood. The leading rusher in the Big 12 is averaging 15 carries a game which is fine since he also averages 9.6 yards per carry. Linwood is a home run hitter that drives the Baylor offense and that should be on full display Saturday.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
|3rd Down Con||42%||55%|
|Opp 3rd Down Con||27.8%||38.8%|
|Sacks Given Up||3.4||1.0|
|Redzone Scoring %||84.0%||89.7%|
|Field Goal %||72.7%||66.7%|
By the time this game kicks off it will have been 364 days since the Bears lost to the Mountaineers, and they’ve been counting down the clock. WVU won’t get much sympathy from a McLane Stadium crowd that will be raucous. There is nothing like a revenge game to get a good team, and their fan base, fired up.
This would have been a daunting task for the Mountaineers if they had everyone on their opening day two deep available. Even if a few players step up on the defensive side of the ball, the Mountaineers will need their best offensive performance in years to have any hope of outscoring the Bears on Saturday.
With pride on the line the Baylor Bears will have no problem dispatching West Virginia quickly and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears run the score up into the seventies just for good measure. Hopefully the Bears ordered plenty of fireworks to shoot off after each score because at the rate they’re scoring so far they could run out before halftime this weekend.