Baylor vs. West Virginia Preview Part 2

So what does Baylor need to do to get out of West Virginia with their 4th win of the season and their 10th in a row? And do we actually think that will happen? Check inside BearsIllustrated.com to find out.

With Baylor and West Virginia facing off this Saturday in Morgantown, the Baylor Bears will be the underdog for the first time this season. They will face an amped up and excited Mountaineer team and fan base, ready to get their new life as a Big 12 member going. This is actually the first home game for either of the new Big 12 teams, with TCU going on the road to Kansas for their inaugural game.

The big question for Bear fans though is what Baylor will need to do to pull off an upset. Well, we are here at BearsIllustrated,com to answer those lovely questions. So let's get started with the keys to the game!

Keys to the Game:

1. Turnover Battle –

The Bears over their 9 game win streak have forced at least 2 turnovers in every game. However, over those 9 games, they have not faced an offense as dynamic as the one they will see Saturday. They have faced some good quarterbacks in that winning streak, including Landry Jones, James Franklin and Keith Price. However, none of those three have the arm strength and accuracy that Geno Smith possesses.

Baylor will have to be aggressive and play to create turnovers, as they have done under defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. The Bears are an astonishing 11-0 when they have forced two or more turnovers with Coach Bennett leading the defense. Baylor will have to confuse the West Virginia offense and force them to make mistakes.

On the flip side, Baylor cannot give the ball up easily. Nick Florence has already thrown 4 interceptions this year, and two early ones against ULM put them in a big hole. The Bears cannot do that against the Mountaineers. I think the Bears will need to be +2 in the turnover battle.

2. Pressure on the quarterback –

This point goes both ways for both sides of the ball. Baylor's defense has to be able to make Smith uncomfortable in the pocket. He is not fleet of foot, and is much more comfortable in the pocket. The Maryland Terrapins last week were able to get pressure and confuse the WVU line and Geno Smith causing him to force throws too quickly, throw the ball away, or even turn it over.

Baylor has seemed to have gotten more pressure with their 3-man front, as they usually bring another pass rusher from either a linebacker or defensive back. This has allowed the Bears to be more difficult to block and allow them to get their defensive ends in one on one situations. Terrance Lloyd is going to have to have a big game, and the newly anointed starter Chris McCallister will have to continue to make an impact in more plays.

Baylor's offensive line will also have to do a good job of stopping the Mountaineer pass rush and giving Nick Florence time to wait out some of the longer routes that the Bears like to run. The pass rush also has to do a better job on the draws/play-action passes that is a very large staple of what Coach Briles likes to do on offense. The line has to step up and stop the West Virginia pass rush, which has totaled 10 sacks in just three games (Baylor has just 5).

If the Bears can stay even in regards to sacks/sacks allowed, they will give themselves a better chance to win this game.

3. Win the Big Plays –

Below is a breakdown of the two teams and what they have done on big plays:

Baylor

Opponents

West Virginia

Opponents

Passes 15+ yards

22

19

24

18

Passes 25+ yards

12

9

11

7

Rushes 10+ yards

16

14

18

14

Rushes 25+ yards

4

5

4

3

TOTAL

54

47

57

42

West Virginia is plus 15, while Baylor is just plus 7. Baylor likes to get its big plays in the passing game, especially off of play action, while West Virginia gets more of their with shorter routes that go for big gains after the catch. The Mountaineers are more dangerous with the ball in open space than Baylor, but Baylor is better at getting behind the defense.

The Baylor defense has also allowed too many big plays, which usually is an indication of a blitzing team, which the Bears have not been. They have taken bad angles to ball carriers and missed too many tackles especially in the run game.

Baylor has to keep the Mountaineers in front of them, and not let them get those big yards after the catch or first hit. If the Bears can get 1 or 2 more plays of 25 or more and break even on the 15+ yard plays, Baylor should be able to keep this game within reach.

4. Hit ‘em and take them down –

The Bears tackling in The Opening game was phenomenal, as the Baylor defenders hit the SMU ball carriers and brought them down. Baylor was especially great at bringing down Zach Line, the big and burly back for the Mustangs. The Mountaineers starting running back Shawne Alston is much more like Line than he is the other backs the Bears have had struggles with this year. Alston is expected to play, after leaving the Maryland game early.

Alston is a 5-11, 236 pound power back who has averaged 6.17 yards per carry. The Mountaineers do not run a ton, as they have 130 pass attempts versus just 86 rushing attempts. They do get solid yardage though, with 5.55 yards per carry. The Bears will have to do a god job of wrapping up and tackling the West Virginia running backs.

However, the runners are not the only ones that the Bears will have to worry about. The two star receivers for West Virginia are both good after the catch, but Tavon Austin is special when he gets into open space. WVU likes to get him out wide and use him on short passes and also involve him in the running game.

Baylor defenders will be put in one on one situations with Austin, and they have to break him down and force him to either slow down, go towards the other defenders, or bring him down themselves. Yards after carry/catch will be a huge statistic for the Mountaineers, and the Bears have to do a good job of limiting it.

5. Keep the balance -

While the Bears play calling has been the definition of balance during the first three games, if we dig into the numbers a bit more, we find that the offense has been passing dominant, especially in the first half. That could be due to the Bears falling behind in 2 of 3 games, but it could also be due to the lack of results from the rushing attack.

Quarter

Rushes

Passes

1st Quarter

29

38

2nd Quarter

27

34

3rd Quarter

29

26

4th Quarter

33

19

Total

118

117

The Bears have to run the ball more efficiently, especially on 3rd down. Overall, Baylor has averaged 5.26 yards per carry, but those numbers look much worse when we dig into two key area, 3rd down rushing and redzone rushing. The Bears have struggled to generate a big push on 3rd and short and have really struggled when they get close to the end zone. Baylor has converted just 12 of 34 3rd downs, for a meager 35.29%, though they did convert 7 of 14 versus ULM.

Attempts

Yards

Average

3rd Down Total

18

75

5.93

3rd Down 1-3 yards to go

13

20

1.54

3rd Down 4-6 yards to go

3

38

12.67

3rd Down 7-9 yards to go

2

17

8.5

3rd Down 10 + yards to go

0

0

0

Redzone Rushes

33

111

3.36

Baylor's passing offense has been much more effective when compared to the rushing attack. The Bears averaged just 3.6 yards per carry against ULM and struggled to get anything going in 47 carries. The Bears have to maintain balance in their offense, and to do that, they need to average at least 5.5 yards per carry.

6. A FREE BONUS KEY!!!!! Finish drives in the red zone –

In the two losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, the lack of performance in the red-zone killed the Bears chances to win those two games. Baylor has converted 14 of their 16 chances in the red zone into points, but four of those scores have been field goals. Baylor has to convert at least 75% of their red zone chances into touchdowns and make sure they don't leave points off the board.

Prediction: West Virginia wins 49-35

This is the first time your humble commentator has picked against the Bears this year, but you must trust that I did so with great pause and hesitation. I do believe that if the Bears do those 5 keys, they will win. I just don't think they will be able to do all of them, and overcome a very good team and a tough environment.

Baylor will struggle a few times in the rezone and either turn the ball over or fail to convert a 4th down chance. The game will be close at some point in the second half, but a late score will make it a two possession game that the bears cannot recover from.

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