The second ranked Baylor Bears have eyes on a spot in the College Football Playoff, while the Wildcats are looking to play spoiler. It is a flip of the script from 2012, when the Bears found themselves just 4-5 on the year, and losers of 4 of their previous 5 games. It was a team under tremendous pressure and needed a season saving win. In came the top-ranked Kansas State Wildcats, led by All-American and Heisman candidate Collin Klein. They were 10-0, and had their eyes at a national championship shot. 60 minutes later, the Bears saved their season, and started their winning streak at home courtesy of a 52-24 win that shocked everyone.
Payback is on the minds of the Wildcats, who are 3-4 on the year, and have lost four games in a row. Could this be their season saving win? Could this be the win that changes the course of their program, as it has done for the Bears? Since that November night, Baylor is 32-4 with two Big 12 Championships. Since that night, the Bears have been the best program in the state of Texas, and the Big 12. With a win, they take one more step towards trying to prove their worth in the championships playoffs.
Players to Watch
Charles Jones, Sophomore Running Back
Jones is the leader of a three-headed rushing attack. With freshman running back Justin Silmon and quarterback Joe Hubener, the Wildcats have three players with between 250 and 300 yards rushing. Jones is a good sized back who led the Wildcats in rushing in 2014. He had his first career 100-yard rushing game of his career against Texas in their last game.
Joe Hubener, Junior Quarterback
The former walkon from Cheney, Kan., has completed 66 of 145 passes for 963 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions this season. Hubener entered fall camp as the backup to starter Jesse Ertz, after holding off rising freshman Alex Delton. He is much more of a threat with his legs, rushing for 258 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has completed under 50% of his passes in 2015, and has thrown just 5 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. At 6-foot-5, he is more of a physical runner than a pure speed threat.
Elijah Lee, Sophomore Linebacker
The Wildcats leading tackler, Lee has been a big play making threat for the Wildcats. He has 39 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions. Lee plays at the weakside linebacker position and is asked to do quite a lot for this defense. He had 4.5 sacks last year in a reserve role, but can cover quite a bit and is good against the run game.
Will Geary, Sophomore Defensive Tackle
A rising star along the defensive line for the Wildcats, the sophomore tackle has 3.5 sacks already in 2015. He is 6th on the team in tackles from his interior position. Geary has good size at 6 feet tall and 290 pounds.
Keys to the Game
1. First Down Run Success - With their woes at quarterback, and the search for a big playmaker on the outside to replace Tyler Lockett still ongoing, the Wildcats are a run first team. They have had 203 first down plays, and have attempted a run on 73.39% of those plays. They average a solid 4.24 yards per carry, setting up 2nd and manageable. This is an offense that is designed to stay ahead of the chains and control the clock. They did this magnificently against TCU in their first chance at a Top-5 upset, but went away from their run first attack a bit in the second half, even with a 3-score lead. It was a puzzling mistake for such a well-coached team, and one that Baylor should not expect them to amke. If Kansas State gets a lead in this game at any point, they will run first, second and third.
The success on 1st down running plays is the Wildcats will be able to control the clock and keep the powerful Baylor offense on the sidelines. With 2nd medium, turning into 3rd and short, Kansas State should have the advantage. However, KSU has struggled in 3rd and 1-3 yard situations so far this year, converting under 50% of those opportunities. For comparison, Baylor converts 70%. Keeping those 1st down runs to 3 yards or less will setup the Baylor defense to have success on 3rd down, and get their offense back on the field.
2. Quarterback Pressure - Even with all major contributors returning for the Baylor defensive line, the pass rush has not been nearly as strong as it was in 2014. The Bears are generating a sack on just 5.73% of pass attempts, down from 7.22% in 2014. Kansas State hasbeen better at generating a pass rush, getting a sack on 6.33% of pass attempts (up from 5.21% last year). One area where the Bears have been absolutely dominant though is in preventing sacks, allowing a sack on just 1.55% of snap plays (down from 4.66% in 2014). The Wildcats have been awful at protecting their quarterback, allowing a sack on 12.57% of pass attempts, another reason why their downfield passing attack has struggled.
This is a game where Baylor should generate quite a bit of pressure on the quarterback. While Joe Hubener is a threat with his legs, he is much more of a power runner, than an elusive guy that can get away from pressure. With a stationary target to attack, the Baylor defense has to hit Hubener and cause those negative plays.
3. Quick Start - The Bears lead the nation in 1st quarter points per game, with 23.2. That is almost a touchdown higher than 2nd place TCU (16.4). Kansas State is 99th averaging just 4 points in the first quarter. With a new quarterback under center in Jarrett Stidham, this is a game that BEGS the Bears to get off to a fast start. With a lead, the Wildcats rushing attack will be minimized, and their passing game will be overexposed. They have completed just 45.6% of their passes this year, and are averaging 6.4 yards per attempt which ranks 99th in the nation.
Traditionally, the Wildcats have always had an effective passing attack, and had a high average per attempt, due to hitting big shots down the field off of play-action. That element of their attack has largely been missing in 2015. They are 122nd in the nation in completion percentage, and are not getting big plays down the field. They have just 77 plays for over 10 yards, tied for the 2nd fewest in the nation. They have the 3rd fewest plays over 20 yards with 24. Baylor has allowed just 91 plays over 10 yards, the 24th fewest in the nation.
There is little to no down field threat for the Wildcats, and with a lead, the Bears pass defense should be able to dominate.
Massey Ratings – Bears win 43-33
RealTime RPI – Bears win 45-24
TeamRankings.com - Bears win 43-26
Vegas Line - Baylor -17.5
Staff Predictions COMING SOON!