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Baylor vs. Kansas Preview / Prediction Thread

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I just couldn't let this week go without talking about the game at least somewhat.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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3/4 BAYLOR (4–0, 1–0) vs. NR/NR Kansas (0–4, 0–1)
Oct. 10, 2015 | 11 a.m. CT
Lawrence, Kan. | Memorial Stadium (50,071)

TV: FS1
Watch | Listen | Gametracker Gametracker | Game Notes Notes | Tickets

OPPONENT: Kansas Jayhawks
ODB GAME HUB: Baylor Bears vs. Kansas Jayhawks 2015
MEET THE PRESS: Baylor vs. Kansas
PREDICT THE SCORE: Baylor vs. Kansas
FIRST LOOK: Baylor vs. Kansas
ROLL CALL: Baylor vs. Kansas
SB NATION BLOG: Rock Chalk Talk, at right
SPREAD: Baylor –45 (Open: Baylor –38)
TV COVERAGE: Fox Sports 1, 11:00 a.m. CDT
WEATHER FORECAST: Sunny, high of 76°, Winds S at 10–20mph. (wunderground puts temp at 62° at game time)
BAYLOR UNIFORMS: Green-White-Green (aka the Stormpickle)

INJURY/SUSPENSION NEWS:

Baylor -- If there is any, I don't know it.  We'll be watching to see if Devin Chafin and Byron Bonds return for the Bears this week.  They were both supposed to be close last week, but Craig Smoak says it's unlikely for Chafin, at least.

Kansas -- Gosh, what a nightmare.  The Jayhawks lost Michael Cummings in the spring game, then Montell Cozart and Deondre Ford.  As a result, true freshman Ryan Willis will make his first-career start against Baylor.  RB Taylor Cox is coming back after missing quite a bit of time over the last two seasons.  He'll go into the mix with Ke'aun Kinner and De'andre Mann.  With Willis back there, I bet we'll see a lot of those three.

Advanced Stats:

Once again, Peter has blessed us with an in-depth look at the advanced line starts for this game in his First Look post linked above.  Check it out.

Category

Baylor (4-0)

Kansas (0-4)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk 18 (30.5%)
126 (-50.8%)
BAYLOR
Overall FEI Rk 3 (..229)
125 (-.215)
BAYLOR
Overall S&P+ Rk 39 (9.7)
124 (-22.4)
BAYLOR
Field Position Advantage ---
---
---

Before any Jayhawk fans freak out, the EDGE category here is entirely arbitrary.  0-10 ranking spots different = EVEN.  11-40 = Standard Case for whichever team. 41+ = ALL CAPS for that team.

Guys/gals, you may be shocked to hear this, but Kansas isn't very good.  In fact, they're really, really bad. By far the worst P5 team in the country by F/+, they may be one of the worst P5 teams ever. Equally bad by FEI and S&P+, as well as both sides of the ball, this game is a total mismatch.  That's even if you believe S&P+ and don't think Baylor is actually an elite team.

Players to Watch (for Kansas):

With Cozart and Ford out, there's not a lot of good options for this section of the post.  We'll do the best we can.

#22 RB Ke'aun Kinner -- The 5-9, 190-pound Kinner is Kansas' leading rusher on the season with 70 carries for 341 yards and 5 TDs.  That's an average of 4.9 yards per carry.  Like I said above, expect to see a lot of him tomorrow to make things as easy as possible for Willis in his first start.  Any additional benefit Kansas gets by slowing things down will help, too.

#11 WR Tre' Parmalee -- Parmelee is tied for the lead in receiving TDs for Kansas with 1.  And he's tied with 1 other guy.  That says so much about their passing offense that I'm not sure anything else needs to be said.

#9 Fish Smithson -- I'm not sure how many times I've said that it's not generally a good sign when a safety leads your defense in tackles (and Baylor fans know that well from Ahmad Dixon's early time here), but such is the case for Kansas.  It's actually slightly worse than that since Smithson is actually tied for the lead with cornerback Tyrone Miller, who wears #19.

What I'll Be Watching For:

Baylor Keeping Its Edge: No disrespect intended to Kansas, but it's easy for a team to lose its edge, particularly on the road, against another vastly inferior to it.  I said it in the podcast, and I'll say it again: the biggest thing I want to see from Baylor is utter domination.

Limiting Turnovers: Want to know how a team like Kansas beats Baylor? Turnovers and lost of them.  Kansas won't be able to stop our offense on a consistent basis, so we can't do their work for them by stopping ourselves.  But turnovers aren't really the only way Kansas keeps it close ...

Clean Up Those Special Teams: Special teams can really help, too.  Like Lamar with turnovers, we saw in the SMU game how a long return or two can change the complexion of a game and challenge a defense.  If Baylor wants to play a complete game, that necessarily involves special teams.

Honestly, this kind of game is basically a no-win situation for Baylor.  Either we dominate Kansas as we are expected to do and get nothing for it, or we don't and we get ridiculed.  Baylor has to crush Kansas or risk losing style points, and that creates pressure.  Add to that the fact that it's a road game, even against the Jayhawks, and you get a situation basically begging for people to pick Kansas on a 45-point spread.

My Prediction:

But I'm not going to.  Even if Baylor takes its foot off the gas early or puts in the backups at halftime, we're still going to score a ton of points.  We crush Kansas across the board in the line stats, and the situation isn't much better with their secondary.  My guess is that after a high-flying first half for Seth Russell, we'll see the traditional Baylor second-half blowout offense in this one. That means a lot of Johnny Jefferson and Terence Williams in relief of Shock Linwood.  I hope Jarrett Stidham gets the chance to throw the ball around some, since he'll probably be playing quite a bit.

Under other circumstances, I'd say that Kansas has at least a decent chance of being able to throw a bit on our defense.  With Willis under center, however, I'm not so sure.  Even if he is the best QB on Kansas' roster, as many KU fans believe, he's extremely inexperienced.  Baylor will blitz and blitz until there's no point in blitzing any more.

One particular place to watch tomorrow is the battle of DE Jamal Palmer against freshman RT Larry Hughes.  After struggling early in keeping containment against SMU, Palmer has been arguably Baylor's most disruptive defensive lineman this season with 10 QB hurries.  Palmer, the senior, against Hughes, the freshman, should be fun.

Once again, I finished just 7 total points off of last week's score with my prediction of 59-38.  The actual final score was 63-35.  This week, I'm going with ...

Final Score: Baylor 66, Kansas 13.

I'm taking Baylor to cover, is what I'm saying.

Give me your predictions in the comments and vote in the poll!