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Kicking the Tires: Baylor Bears

K-State gets a Thursday-night shot at the high-octane Baylor Bears. Optimism does not abound in Manhattan.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Two years ago, K-State limped into a home meeting with Baylor at 2-3 and on a two-game losing streak. The Bears entered the contest undefeated and averaging almost 70 points per game. The Wildcats took a lead into the fourth quarter before two late Baylor touchdowns sealed a green-and-gold victory.

Tonight, K-State limps into this meeting at 3-4 and on a four-game losing streak. Baylor enters the contest undefeated and averaging more than 60 points per game. So if you're into superstition and other intangibles, K-State has Baylor right where it wants.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Joe Hubener, 66-145-5, 963 yards, 6.6 yards/attempt, 5 TD, 137.6 yards/game

Rushing: Charles Jones, 60 carries, 302 yards, 5.0 yards/carry, 3 TD, 43.1 yards/game

Receiving: Deante Burton, 20 receptions, 261 yards, 13.1 yards/reception, 2 TD, 37.3 yards/game

Baylor

Passing: Jarrett Stidham, 24-28-0, 331 yards, 11.8 yards/attempt, 6 TD, 47.3 yards/game

Rushing: Shock Linwood, 121 carries, 974 yards, 8.0 yards/carry, 9 TD, 139.1 yards/game

Receiving: Corey Coleman, 47 receptions, 962 yards, 20.5 yards/reception, 18 TD, 137.4 yards/game

True freshman Jarrett Stidham makes his first career start for the injured Seth Russell. Ordinarily a true freshman making his first start in Manhattan would seem like a recipe for disaster. But Baylor seems able to plug-and-play at quarterback without missing a beat. Stidham has more touchdown passes on the year than Joe Hubener, in one-fifth as many passing attempts.

That's not as difficult when you have receivers like Coleman and KD Cannon, but it's impressive nonetheless. Coleman and Cannon are the uncoverable aliens, but Baylor will make use of Jay Lee (6'3", 220 lbs.), and god help us if he catches a slant with a head of steam.

Not much has worked on offense for K-State this year. The reasons are well documented at this point. Phil Bennett's defense will aggressively overplay the run and dare Hubener and K-State's receivers to beat them one-on-one. Experience casts doubt on this possibility coming to pass, but every day is a new day, I suppose. Be ready for K-State to throw on first down against a loaded box in an effort to loosen up the Baylor defense. The be ready for second and 10 about 60 percent of the time.

Advanced Stats

Thanks as always to Jeff for the graphs.

Kansas State Offense vs. Baylor Defense
Baylor Offense vs. Kansas State Defense

Conclusion

This one looks ugly. Two years ago, K-State struggled early with youth and inexperience, but still had players like Jake Waters and Daniel Sams. With the injuries at quarterback and in the defensive secondary, this team does not match up well against Baylor. It's possible the defensive front six can bow up and slow down the Baylor run game for a while, and maybe get some pressure on Stidham.

K-State usually gets the benefit of the doubt from Vegas, especially at home. But the oddsmakers have favored Baylor by more than two touchdowns from the start, and the line currently sits at -17. Bill Connelly projects Baylor to cover, though not by much. I'd take his projected result, but with the playoff rankings looming, Baylor will have incentive to pour it on.

Bears 49, Wildcats 20