Offense vs. Defense
When Baylor has the ball
The Wildcats defense has taken a big step back in 2013 compared to last year. That is too be expected with the amount of losses they had on that side of the ball. They lost their five top defensive lineman, three of their top four linebackers and two of their best secondary players. This is a completely different defense than the last one the Bears saw in Waco. What they do return though is an All-American caliber safety in Ty Zimmerman, and a bunch of junior college players ready to step up and make the Wildcats defense strong again.
At this point of the season, the secondary is the strength of the KSU defense. Randall Evans is a solid cornerback while Dante Barrett has played very well at the strong safety position. Zimmerman though is the key. Baylor finds might not remember him, as he missed the 2012 game due to injury. It was a big loss, as the Bears offense moved at will, especially against the young secondary for the Wildcats. But those young players have another year under their belt and have their leader back.
Up front, they have struggled in most of their games of stopping the run. Last year, they could afford to play their safeties back and trust Arthur Brown and company to shut down the oppositions run game. This year though, that plan is failing. With their safeties having to help more and more in the running game, look for the deep ball to be more of a weapon for the Bears in this game, rather than the all-out ground assault we saw last year.
When Kansas State has the ball
Two things happened last week to the Wildcats that don't usually happen to them. They lost a game due to turnovers and penalties. The penalties were the major aberration when looking at how great KSU has been under Coach Bill Snyder at limiting penalties. They committed just 3.9 penalties per game last year, but had a season high 12 against Oklahoma State. The turnovers were not any better, as they gave the Cowboys the ball three times off of interceptions.
At its heart, the Wildcat offense is still a run oriented attack that will try and slow the game down, get yards in smaller chunks on the ground and then try and spring a deep play action pass when the defense lets its guard down. They have not been nearly as successful this year in doing that due to several factors. First, the offensive line while returning several starters including All-Big 12 tackle Cornelius Lucas, has struggled at times to open up holes for the running game. Secondly, the uncertainty at the quarterback position has hurt the overall chemistry of the offense and slowed down the process of finding their identity. Third and probably most important, is the loss of their two starting wide receivers in Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson for a good part of the 2013 campaign already.
You need a strong running game to really succeed with long play-action passes, but it also doesn't hurt to have two of the fastest wide receivers in the Big 12 on either side of the field. With their two star receivers battling injuries, those deep balls have just not been nearly as easy to convert. At this point, Coach Snyder is being rather coy about their availability on Saturday, but if either or both are not 100%, that is a big loss for the Wildcats attack.
Fun Stats to Ponder
- Since 1990, K-State's record when scoring first is very impressive as the Wildcats have gone 141-27 (.839) when drawing first blood. Last season, K-State was a perfect 6-0 when scoring the game's first points and is 2-1 so far in 2013.
- K-State has converted on 29-of-53 (.547) third-down chances in its last four games after converting just 2-of-10 against North Dakota State
-Baylor's defense has tallied 20 sacks over its last 5 games (4 vs. WVU, 2 vs. ULM, 2 vs. Buffalo, 6 against Wofford and 6 in Holiday Bowl win over UCLA). BU is 20-4 over the past 3+ years when having 2 or more sacks in a game.
-Baylor has outscored its opponent 199-34 in the 1st half of its 4 games this season.
- Baylor's combined 283 points scored in the first 4 games are the most over any 4-game stretch in school history and more total points than BU has scored in 58 of the last 68 full seasons.
- The Bears have scored 29 of their 35 offensive TDs this season in under two minutes, including 14 in under one minute.
-Baylor has seven quarters this season in which it has scored 28 or more points. That number equals the number of times the Bears scored 28+ points in a quarter in their 1,137 all-time games entering the year.
Keys to the Game
1. Don't fall asleep on Play-Action Passes
The Wildcats in 2012 made a living off of running the ball and getting defenses to sink down on the running game on play-action fakes while they simply just threw over the top. They were especially adept at doing that at home, where they averaged 10.2 yards per pass. In fact, there overall 8.8 yards per pass attempt ranked 5th in the country tied with Oklahoma State and Clemson, two very effective passing attacks. While the Cats still prefer to run, their play-action passing game has not been quite as effective this year, where their average has dropped to 8.6 yards per attempt (21st in the country). While still very good, it is hurting their overall explosiveness on offense and one of the reasons they are averaging 4 points per game less this year than last.
At times the Bears defense has fell for the play-action fake. Just look at the Buffalo and West Virginia games for examples of this. And even thought the Wildcat passing attack isn't great, it is still probably the most effective on the Bears will have seen in 2013, especially if Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett are healtyh enough to play and give Kansas State its two top wide receiver threats.
2. Keep Sams from beating you with his legs
While still a young quarterback, Daniel Sams is a much better runner than passer at this point in his career. His first game to really be trusted to use his arm was last weekend against Oklahoma State. While he completed 15-of-21 passes for 181 yards, he also threw 3 huge interceptions to hurt the Wildcat's chances for an upset. He added two touchdown passes including a perfect 67 yard pass to Glenn Gronkowski, but where he really hurt the Cowboys was with his legs. The sophomore signal caller had 118 yards rushing on 27 carries. On the year, he is the Wildcats leading rusher at 323 yards. The Bears will have to have a spy on the quarterback at all times and make sure they do not let him get out of the pocket where he can really do some damage.
3. Establish the run
The Wildcats run defense has been susceptible this year until they went to Stillwater last weekend to face the Cowboys. They are allowing 4.28 yards per rush, and over 165 yards rushing per game. But against the Cowboys, they held them to just 85 yards and an average gain of 3.4. They have also allowed 8 touchdowns on the ground this year, after allowing only 8 in 2012 in games that didn't include Baylor. Last year, the Bears ran for the most yards allowed by the Wildcat defense, 342. That was 167 yards MORE than any other team. Baylor gained 6.98 yards per carry, roughly 46% better than any other team against the Wildcats.
4. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
The turnover battle is always important, but check out these stats. When the Wildcats get two or more interceptions, they are 21-5 in their last 26 games. Baylor on the other hand is 19-2 in the last three seasons when it has forced 2 or more turnovers. The Wildcats have struggled to turn the ball over through 5-games, only getting 1 fumble recovery and 4 interceptions. Last year, they averaged 2.5 takeaways per game. So far, Kansas State has just not been nearly as aggressive at getting their hands on the ball in 2013. But Baylor probably won't help them too much by giving up the ball. The first team offense has just two turnovers so far in 2013, and as a team, they are just averaging 1.7 turnovers per game (62nd in the country).
On the flip side, the Bears defense has been excellent at forcing turnovers so far in 2013, getting the ball 2.3 times per game on average against FBS opponents. The Wildcats though have been even more generous than that with the ball, as they average 3 turnovers per game (4th most in the country). The Bears have a distinct advantage on paper when it comes to turnovers, but that won't help them much, unless they make things happen in that area.
5. There is no play like home
The Bears have struggled historically on the road, especially in Big 12 play. They are just 1-8 in their last 9 road games. They are even worse in Manhattan, being 0-4 in their history there. To be an elite team, the Bears have to break that trend and come out victorious on the road. Maybe it is bringing up some Vitek's for a meal, or bathing in Dr. Pepper the night before. Something has to remind the Bears that they are still playing the same fun game that they play in Waco. One way to do that is get off to a quick start and take the KSU crowd out of the game. They did that successfully two years ago, before taking their foot off the gas and slowing down the offense which let KSU make a comeback in the 4th quarter to win the game.
Massey Ratings – Bears win 48-41
RealTime RPI – Bears win 44-39
TeamRankings.com – Bears win 45.5- 28.5
Chris Bullajian, BearsIllustrated.com Publisher
Bears win 43-32
Baylor comes into this game against Kansas State as the hottest team in college football. They are riding an 8-game winning streak dating back to last year, they average over 780 yards per game, and they score over 70 points a contest. None of that matters though if they take a very talented Kansas State team too lightly. This is Baylor's first road game of the season and the Bears will be trying to prove that the high-powered offense is able to perform away from Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco. I think the Bears win the game, but this will be the toughest test of the season.
Steve Brischke, BearsIllustrated.com Administrator
Bears win 56-24
Another week, another set of new questions and doubts about Baylor's terrific start. While plenty have marveled at what the Bears have done, others have questioned the legitimacy. This week - it's the first road test. Every statistic, every personnel grouping, the records, and certainly the odds suggest Baylor should win this game. But the naysayers question whether Baylor can keep it up on the road. Because of their strong line play (on both sides of the ball) and unique rushing attack, I don't see Baylor slowing down much. Credit must always be given to Bill Synder teams, but this one will lose another 20+ point game to the Baylor Bears this Saturday.
Kevin Barrera, BearsIllustrated.com Contributor
Bears win 51-20
Heading in to a road game against Kansas State, the Bears know that all eyes will be on them and how the react to a hostile environment for the first time this season. This will be a great test for this young offense, and a great test for a defense that has been stout so far this year. If the Bears can continue to stay focused on the task at hand, and not get caught up in the raucous atmosphere that the KSU fans are sure to provide, I think the Bears will be just fine. Behind another dominating effort by the Offensive and Defensive lines, Baylor pours it on early and continues its dominance against the Wildcats. The Bears win this game and are able to rest their starters in the 4th quarter.
Tim Watkins, BearsIllustrated.com Writer
Bears win 49-27
Yes, this is the first road game. Yes, this is a place the Bears have never won at. This just feels different. Kansas State is not the team they were last year. They are much weaker defensively, and if Lockett and Thompson don't play, those 27 points might all be in garbage time. If they do play though, watch out. But still, I just don't see the KSU holding this Bears offense to less than 40 points, and that is what I think will take to beat the Bears. Baylor's offense hits a few bumps in the road in this one, but the Bears' passing attack wins the game as the Wildcats sell out on the run and hope that their defensive backs can try and keep up enough to force some bad throws.