Mountaineers vs. #2 Baylor Bears Preview

With a senior heavy offensive line paving the way, expect big numbers from Bears RB Shock Linwood. Photo Courtesy: Matthew Lynch
With a proven offensive line paving the way, expect big numbers from Bears RB Shock Linwood on Saturday. Photo Courtesy: Matthew Lynch

By Jeff Cantrell

Game Info
West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #2 Baylor Bears
Saturday – October 17 – 11:00 am CT
McLane Stadium – Waco

The #2 Baylor Bears are returning home this week for a game against the West Virginia Mountaineers. It is notable, that the Bears are ranked #2 for the first time in program history. After two tough losses against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, WVU is looking to rebound from a 0-2 start to conference play. Baylor, on the other hand, is coming off a dominating 66-7 win over the Kansas Jayhawks.

Looking back at the Kansas game, Baylor did exactly what they were expected to do. The Bears dominated the Jayhawks in every aspect of the game. The Baylor offensive starters did not play at all after halftime, and the defensive starters were all gone after the first series of the second half. Given that the starting offense had torched the Kansas defense for 52 points in the first half while the defense allowed only seven points, pulling the starters was the merciful thing to do. However, the backups still scored two TDs and held the Jayhawks scoreless for the second half. The biggest story from the game was the 18-yard TD pass from QB Seth Russell to TE LaQuan McGowan. Anytime a 410 lb. converted lineman scores a touchdown, its news worthy. The rest of the game boiled down to padding stats, keeping the starters healthy, getting the backups game experience and trying not to run up the score. It was a good performance for Baylor but that was last week and now it’s time for the Bears to get serious.

West Virginia is by far the best defensive team that Baylor will face to this point of the season, at least based on the current statistics provided on the NCAA website. West Virginia ranks 40th in total defense, whereas the highest ranking of Baylor’s previous opponents was Rice coming in at 109 out of 127. It should be noted that those teams are ranked there after Baylor got through demolishing them each for 600+ yards and 60+ points. Offensively, West Virginia is a bit of a question mark, after putting up 40+ points in each of its non-conference games, the Mountaineers have been held to less than 30 points in each of its two conference games. So it will be interesting to see how Baylor performs against the increased level of competition.

What to look for when Baylor has the ball

  • For Baylor to be successful, the offensive line of LT Spencer Drango, LG Blake Muir, C Kyle Fuller, RG Jarrell Broxton, and RT Pat Colbert will have to give a quality performance. Everything that Baylor has done up till now, can be partially credited to the work of these five men. They are experienced veterans, with Kyle Fuller being the only junior on this very senior laden Baylor line. The outcome of the game will depend on their ability to protect QB Seth Russell and open up running lanes for RB Shock Linwood.
  • Building off the previous point, Seth Russell will need to play at a high level. West Virginia is bound to bring blitzes to pressure Russell into making errant throws. Last season, QB Bryce Petty was sacked four times and scored only two passing TDs in the 41 to 27 loss to the Mountaineers. WVU CBs Terrell Chestnut and Daryl Worley both have a pair of takeaways on the season and will gladly add to that number if Russell isn’t careful in his decision making.
  • Last year against West Virginia, Baylor set school and Big 12 records with 215 yards on 18 penalties. A big contributor to the loss last season was due to penalties stopping Baylor drives and penalties keeping West Virginia drives alive. Coming off the game against Kansas, in which they were flagged only four times, it’s important for Baylor to not relapse into bad habits.

What to look for when West Virginia has the ball

  • West Virginia has called 259 run plays and 164 pass plays, which is very similar to Baylor’s play calling of 243 run plays and 156 pass plays. Baylor has shown an ability to stop the run with solid defensive line play and with linebackers shooting into gaps to stop opposing running backs for little to no gain. If the front four of LE Jamal Palmer, DT Beau Blackshear, NT Andrew Billings, and RE Shawn Oakman can control the line of scrimmage, it could be a long day for the Mountaineers. Keeping RB Wendell Smallwood to below his season average of 6.6 yards per carry in this game will probably doom the West Virginia squad who desperately needs a respectable run game to take pressure off of Howard.
  • A number that sticks out in the stats is that WVU QB Skyler Howard has been sacked 16 times on the year. This hints at protection problems that Baylor will want to exploit. A good push from the D-line could keep him off balance and force quick decisions. The trick for Baylor will be how to do that and not let him get first downs escaping the pocket on broken plays. Howard is a run threat, something that Baylor has had problems dealing with in the past. So it will be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out with Howard trying to out game the Baylor defenders tasked with stopping him.

Based on the evidence provided by what both teams have done so far, it just doesn’t look like WVU will have enough firepower to stop Baylor enough times to win this one. Baylor will score points and barring mistakes and turnovers, the Mountaineers won’t be able to put up enough points to stay in this game.

Prediction: Baylor 56 – West Virginia 35