Kansas Game Preview - Part 3

In the final part of our preview we take a look at a statistical comparison of the two teams, our keys to the game, and a prediction.

Deck – In the final part of our preview we take a look at a statistical comparison of the two teams, our keys to the game, and a prediction.

The Bears are in must win territory. In fact, you can make an argument that they are past that. The last two games were must win. This one is something else, something even more desperate considering the caliber of opponent. The Bears are 0-3 in the three games that most Bear fans would have said were toss-up games. Those were three games the Bears could have won. They did not, so here we are.

Baylor faces a team with no wins against FBS schools this year, and cannot afford a slip up. This isn't a must win. This is a must destroy, as a great performance might give the Bears the momentum they will need against the hardest part of their schedule.

So, here we are, battling for our first conference win, halfway through the season. Unfortunately, this is not a situation Baylor football fans are unfamiliar with, but it is one that Bear fans are pretty shocked to be in this year. Expectations were high, not atmospheric, but high going into the first year AG3 (After RG3). Those expectations have not been met, in pretty much any way shape or form…at least not yet.

There are opportunities left on the schedule, not easy ones, but still opportunities to get those three wins. They only have one true road game left, and a neutral field game surrounded by 2 more home games. That part is the good part. The bad part about the last four games? It is Kansas and three of the Top 25 teams in the country, including two that have been ranked in the Top 10 for most of the year.

Baylor welcomes their easiest remaining foe to our annual Homecoming festivities, and Bear fans hope it is a happy one. For once, it is also a deserved homecoming as the Bears have only played on one Saturday at home over the last 6 weeks, a loss to TCU on October 13th. Their previous home game was against Sam Houston State on September 15th. The schedule has been difficult in terms of travel so far for sure.

Statistical Comparison

Baylor

Kansas

FEI Rank

46

85

F/+ Rank

61

89

S&P+ Rank

42

58

GE Rank

65

114

Average

53.5

86.5

The Bears have the edge in almost every single metric in advanced statistics (according to Football Outsiders.com). They are a more efficient team, and have played better against a tougher schedule. Take a look at how the two teams compare when facing each other though:

Baylor O Rank

Kansas D Rank

EDGE

FEI

46

64

BU

F/+

2

55

BU

S&P+

12

35

BU

Rush S&P+

8

37

BU

Pass S&P+

20

38

BU

Standard Downs S&P+

7

71

BU

Passing Downs S&P+

8

2

KU

Success Rate

7

80

BU

Average

13.75

47.75

BU

Baylor D Rank

Kansas O Rank

EDGE

FEI

124

87

KU

F/+

123

92

KU

S&P+

99

90

KU

Rush S&P+

87

59

KU

Pass S&P+

98

109

BU

Standard Downs S&P+

84

59

KU

Passing Downs S&P+

116

99

KU

Success Rate

107

94

KU

Average

104.75

86.125

KU

TOTAL

59.25

66.9375

BU

The Bears offense is significantly better than the Kansas defense, and the Bears defense is worse than the Kansas offense, though neither unit is really good. Overall, Baylor has the better team, but not by the margin one would expect with advanced statistics. I believe that this is because of the time of possession strategy and the over inflation of the Kansas schedule.

Keys to the Game

1. Finish Drives with Touchdowns –

There is one area where the Jayhawks to a very good job on defense, and that is in the redzone. They give up a ton of yards and are not as strong defensively as some of the stats say (just look at their per-play yard allowed average and you can see that). However, they are tough to score against in the redzone.

They allow points on just 67.65% of drives that get inside their 20 yard line. That is the 8th best rate in the country. They have forced a large amount of turnovers in the redzone, so the Bears will have to finish drives.

2. Limit Sims –

James Sims is Kanas' best player, and it really isn't even arguable. He is their foundation on offense, and they use him to just pound the rock and get yards after the contact. He is a bigger running back with good finishing ability. He averages a steady 4.8 yards per carry and will probably get 20+ touches in this game.

Sims has 622 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns in just 5 games played this year. Baylor will have to control him, as he is working very well with starting quarterback Michael Cummings, who gives Kansas much more of a rushing threat the quarterback position.

3. Don't turn another QB into a Heisman contender

To say that the Kansas passing attack has struggled this year would be an understatement. As we went over in Part 1 of our preview, Cummings is a freshman with just 1 start under his belt coming into the game against Baylor. He was more of an athlete than a quarterback coming out of Killeen High School, and has struggled with his accuracy against Oklahoma and Texas, the two games he has played the most. He is completing just 45.5% of his passes, and is averaging just 5.38 yards per attempt. He has not displayed any ability to hit receivers accurately, but has really struggled with getting the ball down the field.

Baylor has to make life difficult for Cummings, something they have failed to do in any game except maybe SMU all year. I hope the Bears come out in a more aggressive defensive back field formation with some bump and run called, but defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has not done that at all this year. I do think you will see the corners more aggressive on the shorter routes, as Kansas has not been able to make any teams pay for loading the box and focusing on stopping the run.

4. Gain good yardage on first down –

The second weakness for the Jayhawk defense is on first down. Kansas has been dreadful on first downs this year, allowing 28 passing plays over 15 yards and 36 rushing plays over 10 yards. That is over a quarter of all of their first down plays have gone for big gains. Here is a breakdown of their defensive performance per down:

Passing

Att

Comp

Yards

Avg / Pass

TD

1st

15+

1st Down

103

65

916

8.89

5

31

28

2nd Down

77

50

641

8.32

2

31

23

3rd Down

55

31

259

4.71

5

15

8

Rushing

Att

Yards

Avg.

TD

1st

10+


1st Down

140

842

6.01

7

26

36


2nd Down

99

429

4.33

7

27

18


3rd Down

47

217

4.62

2

18

7


TOTAL

Att

Yards

Avg

TD

1st

10/15+


1st Down

243

1758

7.234568

12

57

64


2nd Down

176

1070

6.079545

9

58

41


3rd Down

102

476

4.666667

7

33

15


They allow almost 1.5 more yards per rush on 1st down compared to 2nd and 3rd and they allow about .5 yards more than 2nd down passing, but over 4 more yards passing than on 3rd down. You do not want to get to 3rd and 5+ on the Jayhawks and have to pass.

5. Win the turnover battle

You will see this listed in the keys to the game until I am dead. We have reached that point with the importance of the turnover margin. The Bears finally broke through and got two turnovers last week, but they still lost the turnover battle and the game. If you count the failed 4th down plays, the Bears turned the ball over 6 times against Iowa State. Baylor has to keep the ball and make good things happen when their offense gets it. They can't give Kansas more chances to chew the clock up and wear down a breakable Baylor defense.

Prediction – Bears win 52-28

I really don't see this being a close game, especially at home. The Bears struggled to come out in rhythm against TCU after a bye week, as Baylor has struggled with games like that at home. However, Briles has made this offense into something truly special at home over the last 3 years. The Bears are just more efficient at home traditionally under Briles, and I expect them to come out swinging in this game, with their season on the line.

The Bears will face the worst offense in the Big 12, and finally find someone they can push around a bit. Cummings will not be able to throw accurately against the Baylor defense, and the receiving crew will have a huge game, as their Bears stop their losing streak at four and being the process of saving their season.


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