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Kicking the Tires: Baylor Bears

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After a much-needed week off, K-State travels to Waco. Baylor is reeling, but still dangerous.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

As much as we’d like to forget about it, let’s revisit K-State’s loss to Oklahoma State for a moment before moving on to Baylor. It’s tempting to draw too many conclusions from a close loss like that, but I’m not sure it’s warranted. The margin between “barely bowl eligible” and “10-win seasons” at this level can be a few plays here or there. Unless you’re fielding a team that is fundamentally superior to most of its competition, the best you can ask is to put your players in position to win games most weeks. From there, your mileage may vary.

Alright, that’s enough philosophy. K-State travels to Waco, Texas, on Saturday to face the suddenly reeling Baylor Bears. After a 6-0 start, the Bears have lost three straight on the field. Off the field, there’s clear dissent in the ranks, as the assistant coaches and players are preoccupied with defending Art Briles’ honor, donors and fans are selling shirts and hanging signs from luxury boxes in support of the disgraced coach, and the administration keeps releasing Friday-afternoon specials detailing Briles’ involvement with the off-field issues.

It may be spilling over to on-field performance. Baylor lost its undefeated season in a one-point loss at Texas, was blown out by TCU, 62-22, and took a three-touchdown loss to Oklahoma last week that wasn’t that close.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Jesse Ertz, 109-192-4, 1,165 yards, 6.1 yards/attempt, 7 TDs, 129.4 yards/game

Rushing: Charles Jones, 95 carries, 509 yards, 5.4 yards/carry, 2 TDs, 56.6 yards/game

Receiving: Dominique Heath, 39 receptions, 406 yards, 10.4 yards/reception, 3 TDs, 45.1 yards/game

Baylor

Passing: Zach Smith, 16-35-0, 272 yards, 7.8 yards/attempt, 2 TDs, 45.3 yards/game

Rushing: Terence Williams, 126 carries, 708 yards, 5.6 yards/carry, 8 TDs, 78.7 yards/game

Receiving: KD Cannon, 47 receptions, 682 yards, 14.5 yards/reception, 8 TDs, 85.2 yards/game

By the way, how hilarious is it that Baylor’s official website refers to Jim Grobe as “acting head coach?”

Starting quarterback Seth Russell suffered a gruesome ankle injury against Oklahoma and is out for the year. Running back Shock Linwood was suspended for the Oklahoma game and allegedly isn’t on the depth chart Baylor released for this game. This is the most I’ve ever linked in a game preview.

Baylor has its usual complement of terrifying wide receivers, with four players averaging more than 15 yards per reception. Cannon leads the way, but known dog-batterer Ishmael Zamora (don’t watch that) is no less dangerous (to opposing defenses, not just dogs).

Advanced Stats

Confession time: I’m not going to spend a lot of time analyzing this matchup. Baylor’s offensive stats were compiled with a different quarterback, and possibly without a major contributor at running back. Kendall Briles will probably find something that works. K-State will live with ball movement between the 20s and look to hold Baylor out of the end zone on red zone trips.

If K-State can remain patient on offense, and by that I mean RUN THE DAMN BALL, then the Wildcats may find some success against Baylor. Interestingly, the Bears are excellent at preventing big plays, but are below average in overall success rate. That’s the opposite of what you expect from a Baylor squad that’s usually aggressive and disruptive but prone to bouts of the dumbs.

Baylor is average-to-below-average against the run other than being excellent at preventing big rushing gains. That’s worth precisely nothing against K-State’s offense.

Nothing jumps out at me in the passing matchup. Baylor is more or less average across the board against the pass. And K-State is ... well, you know.

Conclusion

There’s no telling what may happen in this game. It’s possible that the environment in Waco now is more toxic than the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast and the Bears are on track for a full meltdown. Or maybe the assistant coaches can rally the troops for one last push.

If K-State can strike early and put the Bears behind, then the meltdown may come to pass. Because I despise Baylor, let’s say that happens.

Wildcats 35, Bears 31