Baylor vs. West Virginia Preview Part I: Statistical Comparison

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

A closer look at what FootballOutsiders.com's advanced CFB metrics say about this week's matchup between the Baylor Bears and the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Welcome back, Baylor fans (and whoever else might be looking at this) for another edition of the advanced statistical preview. According to the advanced stats, this week's opponent, West Virginia, is easily the best team we've played this season thus far. That's probably not a surprise. Where their strengths lie, however, might be, since these are not exactly the Mountaineers you expected to see. In the place of the high-flying, Geno Smith-led offensive juggernaut that ripped us to the tune of 807 yards and 70 points in Morgantown last season, we instead face a team led by their defense that managed, with more than a little help from the Cowboys, to hold preseason favorite Oklahoma State to just 21 points last week. Let's take a closer look.

2013 FootballOutsiders Metrics for Baylor vs. West Virginia. Last week's numbers, so much as they exist, are in parenthesis. Dashes (---) mean there are no such numbers to report.


OVERALL When Baylor
Has the Ball ...
When WVU
Has the Ball ...
Category Baylor
(3-0)
WVU
(3-2)
Baylor
Off
WVU
Def
Baylor
Def
WVU
Off
2013 F/+ Rk 5 (6) 54




2013 F/+ Special Teams
--- ---
2013 FEI Rk 11 (21) 66
(---) ---
(---) ---
2013 S&P+ Rk 3 (5) 41
11 (3) 25 67 (67) 62
2013 FPA --- ---



2013 FD Rk

(---) --- (---) ---
2013 AY Rk

(---) --- (---) ---
2013 Ex Rk

(---) --- (---) ---
2013 Me Rk

(---) --- (---) ---
2013 Va Rk

(---) --- (---) ---
2013 Success Rate


1 (1) 16 10 (10) 99
2013 Points Per Play


1 (1) 46 24 (31) 92
2013 Rushing S&P+ Rk

2 (1) 41 2 (2) 96
2013 Passing S&P+ Rk

1 (1) 31 68 (69) 86
2013 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk

1 (1) 20 10 (10) 96
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)


--- --- --- ---
2013 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk

1 (1) 61 44 (47) 79
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)


--- --- --- ---

Right away, you should see a bit of what I'm talking about. Though their overall grade according to S&P+ is dragged up a bit, it seems, by preseason rankings, the WVU defense is by far the better of the two units we'll face on Saturday. They have a strong success rate overall, fueled by a #20 ranking on standard downs-- that is, everything that isn't second and 8 or third/fourth and 5 or worse. Last week's win over a statistically strong OSU offense boosted their rankings significantly from the last time I looked, which is entirely to be expected. As I said yesterday, the metrics say this is a good, not great, WVU defense.

The problem for that defense is that it will face a truly great offense on Saturday night. Baylor leads every category in S&P+ but one, the rushing game, where it is second only to Oregon. That's not a bad place to be. And in fact, if you look at the numbers beneath the rankings, our lead in overall offensive S&P+ over #2 is nearly as big as the gap between #2 (Oregon) and #5 (Miami). The gap between Baylor and the #2 in passing S&P+ (Georgia), is as big as the gap between Georgia and Virginia (#122). This is a very good, very efficient, offense in nearly all respects.

On Baylor's defensive side, the numbers look about like they did a week ago. That's generally what happens when you don't play. Being extremely strong against the run so far has helped us on standard downs, while a relative weakness (though not nearly so much as it is has been in the past) against the pass has pulled us down a bit on passing downs. Overall, our ranking is still heavily weighted by preseason projections, which did not expect nearly the defensive improvement we think we've seen thus far.

The good news for them (our defense) is that WVU's offense, regardless the QB, hasn't been very good through 5 games this season, ranking in the 90s in most of the components of S&P+. If you're WVU, you have to be particularly concerned about standard downs, an offensive weakness against what looks like Baylor's strength. To have offensive success with an uncertain, at best, QB position, WVU will have to establish a running game and set up for management second and third downs. If Baylor can stop that from happening, it could be a long day for a beleaguered WVU offense.

What Does This Mean

That's a question I plan to ask SB Nation's Bill Connelly tonight on the podcast (plug for the podcast!). I'd say, at this point, that Baylor is a healthy favorite for a reason: our offense is significantly better than West Virginia's, our defense only slightly worse, and we're playing at home, where we've scored 40+ points per game every time out but one in the last three years. Will we score 70? I doubt it, but scoring 70 is really hard, anyway. I don't know if I would ever predict that a team will do it in a conference game. Will we score, and often? Almost undoubtedly.

Are Both Teams Scoring 60+ Again?

I seriously hope not. While that was fun and all, this West Virginia offense isn't even close to as good as the 2012 version, and I don't want to have to write what I'd have to write if we got burned like that by them. It would look nothing like the relatively even-keeled reaction of last year.

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