A few days ago I debuted the first post in this week's preview series giving you all the stats you never wanted to know about the #1-ranked Kansas State Wildcats. Yesterday, after waking up from my despair-fueled bender (not really) over our defensive stats, I considered writing the second portion before abandoning that ridiculous suggestion in favor of not doing it. So I'll do it now, on Friday once again, even though there probably won't be all that many people that see it before tomorrow's game.
Tomorrow's game, in case you had forgotten somehow, will be televised on ESPN nationwide beginning at 7PM. I'll say it again -- this is a nationally-televised game. If you can get there, get there. Don't let the crazies from Westboro Baptist scare you into not going. We need a huge turnout to cheer our Bears on to victory, even if that victory is probably a longshot since Kansas State is really good and looks ticketed for the national championship game. Let's jump right to it, again starting with all of the other previews from Baylor sites that you should absolutely read before you do this one. My own thoughts will be somewhat shorter than in weeks past since I covered quite a bit of territory in the first go-round earlier this week.
Once again, Watkins outdid himself in this week's previews, making me wonder why he never gave that kind of attention to our own stuff last year, Tim??? I'm kidding, of course, but his stuff is really good. You should read it if you get the chance. If not, I'm sure Tim will understand.
When Baylor is on Offense
- Simply put, we're going to have to run the ball. KSU's defense is quite good against the pass and at limiting big plays, two things we typically rely on to move the chains and score points. Oklahoma provided the blueprint for stopping our passing game through sheer physicality, and also summoned a dastardly Norman wind to boot. Hopefully the elements take pity on us tomorrow night and Nick Florence has a bit more success. The key to the offense, however, will be how well we run the ball, meaning that Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk will largely dictate the overall performance of the unit.
- Defensively, Kansas State closely resembles Oklahoma in purpose, if not personnel. Bill Snyder's teams have always been known for taking and using junior college players extensively. This year is no exception, with the Wildcats featuring six JUCO players on their two-deep roster. The primary names you need to know are senior LB Arthur Brown, the first man to pick off Robert Griffin III last year and Geno Smith this year, and senior CB Nigel Malone, a Thorpe Award candidate for the Wildcats in the secondary. Senior DE Meshak Williams is their top sack artist on the defensive line and is mostly a speed rusher. Junior safety Jarard Milo is second on the team in tackles behind only Brown, with Randall Evans, a backup cornerback according to their latest roster, third. Evans is actually their fifth DB in their nickel package, something we should expect to see extensively.
- We should expect that KState will play their safeties, Milo and Ty Zimmerman, deep against us in order to limit long passing plays. That may open things up in the middle of the field and on the intermediate routes, but the fact that Brown and Malone are so good, as well, could make things difficult. Kansas State's team thrives on turnovers generated by the defense, so limiting those against them, particularly when our own defense is unlikely to stop their offense, will be key. Nick Florence has to make good reads when the deep ball isn't there and hit it when it is. He didn't do the latter against OU and we suffered for it.
- Probably because they put so much emphasis on stopping the big play, Kansas State is susceptible to the running game and methodical drives, as I mentioned on Wednesday. If Baylor can get the running game going consistently early in the game, the Wildcats may be forced to bring those safeties up to help out, giving us the opportunity to strike down the field. It seems obvious enough, but too often I think we get caught in the trap of believing we have to score via the big play from the get-go when it may not be in our best interest. Florence seems particularly prone to pressing early in the game, as evidenced by his multiple turnovers in the first quarter. Baylor's best chance is to start out quickly against the KSU defense.
When Baylor is on Defense
- All we have to do is stop Collin Klein! That should be easy enough. It's not like a poor man's version of him rumbled 55 yards to the endzone against us just a week ago after scoring 4 TDs in Waco last year. Klein is, to put it delicately, Blake Bell if Bell wasn't just good at running the veer against us for chunks of yardage, though Klein can do that, too. A legitimate Heisman candidate (the favorite by most accounts) this season, Klein doesn't turn the ball over much, makes plays with his legs, and generally just punishes defenses that can't stop him. It should be fun watching our defense try, if your idea of fun is beating the hell out of yourself.
- Kansas State is and probably always will be while under Snyder's stewardship, a running team. Both Klein and junior John Hubert have more rushing yards (both over 800) than anybody on our team, and KSU as a whole averages 213 yards per game on the ground. If we are to have any chance at all of beating them, we have to stop it from being much more than that, if any. KSU runs quite a few plays with option-style looks, so keeping the correct responsibilities with be imperative. Ahmad Dixon has a tendency to freelance a bit in this type of situation, often to the detriment of those around him, so let's hope he doesn't do that.
- Next to Dixon, in the only real change from last week's depth chart, will be MLB Bryce Hager, who is forced back into the starting lineup after his stellar game against OU by the injury to Rodney Chadwick. Chadwick is apparently unavailable for this game and may be out for the season, so now Prince Kent, who typically backs up Dixon, is the back up MLB as well. If we get to the point where the converted safety is actually playing MLB for us, we've probably already lost. And I say that loving Kent and wishing he played more.
- Word on the street is that we may see the return of K.J. Morton against the Wildcats despite the fact that he's not listed on the official depth chart distributed to the media. Morton has missed the last few games due to injury but is rumored to have progressed enough that he may play. Anything that gets Chance Casey off the field is something I would like to see, unless Morton brings a walker or something similar with him onto the field. He should know better than that as it is; only Joe Williams is allowed to loaf around repeatedly without getting called out for it.
- KSU's primary receivers will be sophomore Tyler Lockett, who also leads the team in kick return yardage, junior Tramaine Thompson, whose primary asset is speed at the detriment of size, and Oregon transfer Chris Harper, who is by far the biggest receiver KSU uses regularly. If Morton plays, he will almost certainly draw Harper due to the latter's size. Williams will probably get Lockett. Thompson normally lines up in the slot, as does Lockett when they go 4-wide, and should burn one of our linebackers at least once.
- On the offensive line, KSU benefits both from experience and the fact that should you get to Klein in the first place, you then have to actually tackle him. As a unit they only allow 1 sack per game, a number that we probably won't challenge with our anemic pass rush.
- If we are to have any hope of stopping Kansas State's offense, we have to keep them in relatively difficult situations on third downs. Obviously that starts on first and second, where they will probably want to run the ball if they can. Stop them from doing so early and you force Klein to have to throw the ball. He's admittedly done that quite well this season, but that's not Kansas State's game. Selling out to stop the run on first and second down through a variety of blitzes is our best chance to make something positive happen on third down.
Baylor has the unenviable task of facing what many consider the best team in the country this weekend. One positive is that we get to do it at home, where we definitely play better than on the road, but that is only one positive. This is the most difficult game of our entire season, even considering the following two weeks, and I hope we leave everything on the field. If we have trick plays, we should use them. If we have heretofore undisplayed looks on defense, by all means, display them. The nation saw what can happen when a team throws the kitchen sink on the field in Tuscaloosa last weekend. I hope we show them again.