Offense vs. Defense
When Baylor has the ball
The Bears offense has been destroying teams all year, and while the Jayhawks are getting better on that side of the ball, this is a rather large mismatch. Baylor's offense comes in ranked as one of the best, if not the best, in the nation while the Kansas defense has been pretty average on the year. They are very good at stopping the long ball, but with that strategy, are pretty easy to pass against underneath. They also struggle to stop the run in their base defense especially when they are going against a good passing team.
The Jayhawks do have one of the bigger defensive lines the Bears have seen this year, with 287 pounds, 297 pounds and 277 pounds being the main three linemen. Kansas also uses a "buck" linebacker that is pretty much a pass rushing end in obvious passing downs who is 245 pounds as well. That is a big front line and one of the reasons that KU goes into a game confident they can stop the run without safety help.
When Kansas has the ball
There are very few threats on the Kansas offense that the Bears defense needs to worry about. In fact, you can limit it to their running backs and call it a day. Tony Pierson is still questionable to play, and he is their one big play guy in the rushing and passing game, but their main work horse is still James Sims. They will run him early, run him late and run him often. Outside of their two running backs, they have steady receiver in Brandon Bourbon, but he is more of an H-Back in their system. He will line up in the backfield, as a tight end, or as the inside wide receiver.
Kansas' two starting outside receivers, Josh Ford and Justin McCoy, only have 7 combined catches on the year. They get staggering little from their receivers in the passing game. Their four leading receivers are two running backs, a tight end and their H-Back/Flanker. This is a weird passing attack. The Baylor defense will have to be strong up the middle and at the line of scrimmage, as the running game is really the only thing that the Jayhawks have at this point. Jake Heaps is averaging a miniscule 4.6 yards per attempt, and has only broken 200 yards once this season (279 against Louisiana Tech in the Jayhawks best win of the season).
Fun Stats to Ponder
-The Jayhawks leader in passes caught from the wide receiver position is Tre' Parmalee with 5 catches. Hybrid wide receiver/running backs Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon lead the team in catches with 21 and 18.
-The Bears have forced a 3-and-out on defense 42 times in 88 drives.
-The Baylor offense has scored 36 of their 47 touchdowns in under 2 minutes, and 19 under 1 minute
-The Baylor defense has held opponents to just three of 16 on fourth down attempts this year
-Baylor averages 13.6 yards per passing attempt (1st in the country) while Kansas averages 5.6 (114th). The difference of 8 yards would rank 37th overall.
-Kansas averaged 288 total yards per game, or almost 2.5 times fewer than the Bears national leading 713 yards per game.
-Both teams are penalized quite a bit, with the Jayhawks averaging 58.2 penalty yards per game (94th) and the Bears averaging 73.8 penalty yards per game (119th).
Keys to the Game
1. Force the pass – The Jayhawks are not a passing team. They had 16 passing yards against Oklahoma last week. 16. They were just 5-13 on their passing plays, though they did get a touchdown on one of those passes. Jake Heaps is their "throwing quarterback" and has struggled terribly in this offense, as he transferred from BYU last year. KU does have more of a running threat behind him in Montell Cozart, who made his first appearance of the year against OU last week. Simply put, the Jayhawks can't pass effectively at all, so the Bears need to play up in the box and focus on stopping the running game. They can also force the Jayhawks to pass by simply getting out to a quick lead and making Kansas force the issue.
2. Spread the ball out – It is no secret that any offense is best when it has multiple weapons all working at once. The Bears have that in spades. However, sometimes the Bears can focus on just a few of their weapons, and that is when they can become predictable. We saw that against Kansas State, where only 3 receivers caught passes. The Bears didn't involve Jay Lee, Corey Coleman, Jordan Najvar or even Robbie Rhodes in the passing game at all. Bryce Petty himself as said he is a facilitator and it is his job to simply get the ball to one of his playmakers. In his second career start, look for him to work the ball around to a few more targets.
3. Tough yards inside – The Kansas attack succeeded last week early on against Oklahoma by simply lining up and running down the middle of the defense. They did this for the first quarter, and were very effective at it. The Bears interior struggled against Kansas State, but had their best game of the season against Iowa State at home last week. Two different sides of the run defense coin were shown. Which side will the Bears defense land on this week?
4. Don't dig a hole – This will tie a bit into the 5th key, but the Bears have to be able to start quick and get a lead. Kansas has done a tremendous job this year in getting off to good starts, getting early double digit leads on Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Eventually, they would go on to lose both of those games, but the first quarters were great showings. The KU defense has also not allowed a single score on the opening drive, something that the Bears would love to have. The Kansas offense is built to work with a lead, as their passing attack is just not good enough to come from behind. If given a lead, the Baylor faithful could be in for a show like 2-years ago, where it took a huge fourth quarter to come back and win the game in overtime.
5. Overcome the Crowd – No, not the rowdiness of the crowd or the hostile environment. The Bears will have to deal with the lack of an environment quite honestly. The attendance at KU games has gotten pretty bad, and the Bears two years ago said that they got off to a slow start partly due to the lack of excitement or hype around them. That is a tough place to bring you're A-game too, simply because you feel it isn't needed. Baylor has to put that behind them and play their game for them.
Massey Ratings – Bears win 52-24
RealTime RPI – Bears win 49-28
TeamRankings.com – Bears win 50.2 – 15.8
Chris Bullajian, BearsIllustrated.com Publisher – Bears win 44-25
Steve Brischke, BearsIllustrated.com Administrator – Bears win 64-16
Although Kansas has kept games close a few times in the first half, and even into the 4th quarter in the case of Oklahoma, they are not facing a team this week that has any questions about its offensive identity. Because of that, I think Kansas is in real trouble. The Bears also like to come out of the gates fast and will look to do what they've done so many times this year - end this game by half-time. Whether Kansas can stop that will depend on their running attack, which has been stellar. If Baylor can force Kansas into passing situations, this could get ugly quick. I predict a big win for the Bears - something of the 64-16 variety.
Kevin Barrera, BearsIllustrated.com Contributor – Bears win 66-17
The Bears are going in to Lawrence to face an interesting Kansas team. The Jayhawks have been both good and bad a time this season, and have not been able to put to halves together. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, this Bears team is firing on all cylinders in all 3 phases of the game. This Bears offense just suffocates opposing defenses and this Saturday will not be any different. The Jayhawks have a lot of questions on offense, but do have a good running game. Outside of that, there isn't much that should scare the Bears defense. The Bears will aim to end this game early and make a statement, after coming out sluggish in their first road game at Kansas State. Kansas puts up a small fight in the 1st quarter, but the Bears put it away in the 2nd quarter. Bears win and cover this Saturday, 66-17.
Tim Watkins, BearsIllustrated.com Writer – Bears win 59-17This Bears team is on a mission this year, and the offense in particular is just too explosive to lose to a team that can't at least score a little bit. Quite frankly, Kansas just can't score the ball well, as their offense is just not that good. Baylor scores early and coasts to an easy road win.