The 3rd ranked Baylor Bears hit the road this weekend to take on the winless Kansas Jayhawks. At 0-4, KU is one of the worst performing teams in the nation so far in 2015. They have a loss to an FCS team in South Dakota State, and have losses to Rutgers (1-2 in non-KU games, with the win over Norfolk State) and Iowa State (1-2 in non-KU games with a win over FCS program Northern Iowa). The Jayhawks have trailed big in every game this year. They were down 31-7 to South Dakota State before a furious rally came up short. They actually led for a quarter against a solid Memphis team 10-0, before the Tigers pulled away with a 24 points 3rd quarter. They were down 27-7 to Rutgers, a team that has had an insane amount of turmoil and suspensions this season. This past weekend, they trailed Iowa State 31-7 going into the fourth quarter.
Now comes the news that their starting quarterback, Motrell Cozart is injured and will miss the Baylor game, along with backup Deondre Ford. That will push frehsman Ryan Willis into the starting lineup for the first time in his very young career. Willis was 4th on the depth chart to start the year, as returning starter Michael Cummings was lost for the year to a knee injury in the spring game.
First year head coach David Beatty had a long road ahead of him this year, even before all of the injuries started piling up at the most important position in football.
This is a true matchup of David versus Goliath. These two teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum, with the Bears in the Top-5 in all of the polls, except for the S&P+ and F/+. Kansas is in the bottom-5 of most of the polls, and is usually ranked behind many lower-division FCS teams as well. The Jayhawks are arguably the worst team at the FBS level and are by far the worst power conference team at this point of the season. Using FEI, Kansas is a good 15 spots lower than the next power-5 team (Maryland at 110). In fact, the third lowest team (Rutgers at 94) has already easily beaten the Jayhawks.
Baylor on the other hand rose up the rankings in all but two this past week. They dropped in the S&P+ signifcantly this week, due to preseason projections falling out of the data. The F/+ rankings are an average of the FEI and S&P+ rankings from FootballOutsiders.com. Bill Connelly, the mastermind behind S&P+, explained the Bears status yesterday. A poor schedule, terrible special teams, and an awful field position margin, to go along with too many turnovers in the early powder-puff portion of the schedule, led to the Bears drop.
Players to Watch
Ryan Willis, Freshman Quarterback
Next man up for the Jayhawks, as freshman Ryan Willis will be getting his first career start on Saturday. Willis was a 3-star commit in the 2015 class, and was expected to redshirt with some experienced depth in front of him. However, injuries to Montrell Cozart, Deondre Ford and Michael Cummings and removed that option. Willias was the best quarterback recruit in Kansas last year, and ranked the 48th best QB in the nation. He chose Kansas over offers from Illinois, Kansas State, and Tulsa. He is a pocket passer, with below average speed and mobility. He has a good arm to go along with good size at 6-foot-3.
Ke'aun Kinner, Junior Running Back
The best player for the Jayhawks, Kinner is a capable running back. He is a smaller back with good speed, that fits well into what new coach David Beatty wants to do on offense. He is better suited for a complimentary role though, rather than being the every-down back he is currently asked to be. He is their best threat to score, he has 5 of the teams 9 touchdowns on the year.
Ben Goodman, Jr., Senior Defensive End
Goodman is by far their most productive player on the defensive side of the ball. Kansas' defense has been awful this year, and despite playing a rather easy schedule, the Jayhawks are still 121st in scoring defense, allowing 40.3 points per game. Goodman is their best big play threat, racking up 3.5 sacks so far this year, and leading the team with 5.5 tackles for loss.
Keys to the Game
1. Play like you mean it - The only danger to this game is the Bears completely discounting it, not preparing right and taking the week off. Even then, they might just fall behind by a bit before turning it on in the second half. Baylor is simply too good, while Kansas is just that bad. Baylor needs that edge, at least a little of it, to make sure this game is put away early and any hope for Kansas is extinguished quickly.
2. Stay Healthy - Baylor has been a very healthy team so far this year. They lost Taylor Young for a few games, but he is back now and playing well. Byron Bonds has a broken hand, but might play this weekend as well, after missing the Texas Tech game. The Bears need their injury luck to continue. An injury to Corey Coleman, Shawn Oakman, Spencer Drango, or Seth Russell would drastically change the outlook for this season.
3. Show up - Make sure the buses have enough gas. Make sure everyone makes the plane ride up. Nobody be late, and simply show up. That might be enough to beat Kansas this year.
Massey Ratings – Bears win 49-20
RealTime RPI – Bears win 45-11
TeamRankings.com - Bears win 61-17
Vegas Line - Baylor -44
Staff Predictions COMING SOON!