Baylor Vs West Virginia Preview

The Bears welcome the Mountaineers to the Big 12 Conference as they travel up North to battle West Virginia. Let's take a deeper look as we get ready for Saturday.

To put it plainly, this is a matchup of two teams that look very similar. In fact, it will be a lot like last week, against ULM, but too a much higher degree. I'll just get this out of the way right now. I believe that WVU is the best team in the Big 12. I think they are a legitimate top 5 team, and have the best quarterback and the best skill position players in the Big 12. Add that to the game being in Morgantown and it being their Big 12 opener, this is going to be quite a challenge. The only good thing about this weekend is the game is at 11am, instead of a night game.

Both Baylor and West Virginia run a true spread, with receivers all over the field, and the passing game attacking horizontally and vertically. The Mountaineers do pass the ball a bit more, with just 40% of their plays being rushes, compared to Baylor being at almost a 50% split.

Players to Know:

- Geno Smith, Quarterback, Senior - 96-118 passing, 81.4%, 1072 yards, 9.1 yards per attempt, 12 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 16 rushing attempts, 67 yards at 4.2 ypc, 1 touchdown

Last year Baylor fans were treated to the ridiculous accuracy of Robert Griffin III. Stats were being thrown around about more touchdown passes than incompletions through 3 games. I thought we would have to wait a long time before seeing those type of numbers again, but I was wrong. Smith is doing a pretty dang good impression of the record setting Heisman winner. The one big difference though is where those passes are going. The Mountaineer offense works a much higher percentage of short routes than what Baylor did last year.

Through the Bears first three games, Griffin averaged 11.88 yards per attempt, while Smith is at just 9.1 yards per attempt. That is a BIG difference. West Virginia will attack more horizontally than vertically, and they will have less big plays than the Bears did last year. Smith has always been an accurate passer, always completing over 64% of his passes, but this year he has taken it up a big notch. 81.4% is elite at any level and versus any competition.

- Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, Senior - 34 receptions, 345 yards, 10.1 ypc, 5 touchdowns, 6 rushes, 84 yards for 14 ypc

Austin is a do-everything type player for the Mountaineers, as he is asked to be their leading receiver, and also involved in the rushing attack. He has averaged 11 yards per carry over his career (43 rushes for 472 yards) and is also an accomplished kick returner, getting 24.4 yards per return. Last year, he added punt returns to the resume as well, and has a total of 3 returns for touchdowns.

Austin is just 5-9, but plays much bigger. He reminds me of Kendall Wright, honestly, in that he lines up in the slot primarily, but also will get out wide. He does a great job on short routes, that setup his longer routes for big plays. He plays faster than he looks and he is ver good athlete.

- Stedman Bailey, Wide Receiver, Junior - 28 receptions, 332 yards, 11.9 ypc, 5 touchdowns

Bailey is the other star player in the receiving unit for the Mountaineers, and gives them two elite targets on the outside. Bailey is a little bigger than Austin, but is still just 5-10. He is also asked to do quite a big less than Austin is, as you won't see him involved in the rushing attack or the return game. He makes an excellent #2 option, similar to Terrance Williams last year for Baylor, and you can expect him to have a very similar impact for West Virginia this year and possible next.

- Isaac Bruce, Linebacker, Freshman - 30 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 1 Fumble Recovery

The redshirt freshman is just learning the SAM position for the Mountaineers, but through 3 games, is their leading tackler. Bruce has shown good instincts at the position though, and knows how to finish a tackle. The Bears will have to make sure to get a lineman to the second level, especially on running plays up the middle.

- Terrance Garvin, Hybrid, Senior - 25 total tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass defended

Garvin is listed on the depth chart at the star position, and he fits that role perfectly for the Mountaineers. He is by far the most experienced played on the West Virginia defense, with over 27 career starts. The next most for them is 16 starts by Darwin Cook at their Back Safety position. Garvin plays similar to Ahmad Dixon for the Bears, but brings with him a bit more size.

Key Statistics:

This is a battle of two very efficient offenses, and two that mirror each other in terms of passing styles and personnel groups. Baylor will pass less than West Virginia, but they will attack a bit further down the field, while the Mountaineers rushing attack is less frequent but more explosive than what Baylor has shown in 2012.

Team

West Virginia

Baylor

Rank

6

26

FBS W-L

2-0

2-0

FEI

0.254

0.156

Last Week

7

44

GE

0.286

0.312

GE Rk

13

10

SOS

0.046

0.025

SOS Rk

11

3

OE

1.201

1.090

OE Rk

2

4

DE

-0.095

0.195

DE Rk

54

84

FPA

0.545

0.586

FPA Rk

29

10

Both teams have top 5 offenses in terms of efficiency, and both have significantly worse defenses, with the Bears being 30 spots lower. However, the Bears have had the 10th best field position versus the 29th best for West Virginia.

The Mountaineers have played two games agains FBS teams, and have played Maryland (54th) and Marshall (88th) versus Baylor playing SMU (118) and Louisiana Monroe (58th).

Points/ Game

Points/ Play

Yards/Point

Opp Points/ Game

Opp Points/ Play

Opp Yards/ Point

Baylor

53

0.684

11

33

0.369

16.2

Rank

3

4

5

85

61

44

West Virginia

50

0.690

10.2

27.5

0.320

16.3

Rank

6

2

3

63

46

42

Both of these offenses are really really good, as you can see again here. Baylor has scored more, but the Mountaineers have been more explosive, averaging .006 more points per play, and 0.8 less yards needed for each point they score. Again, both of these teams are elite and efficient at scoring and moving the ball.

The Bears should be big underdogs in this battle of top 25 teams, but as Coach Briles said to sum up his press conference this week, "Let's go to West Virginia and have some fun."


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