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Baylor vs. Kansas Preview / Prediction / Poll Thread

The Baylor Bears travel back to the state of Kansas for the second time this season to face the moribund Kansas Jayhawks, who will try to put their Big 12 troubles aside to take down the conference's new Goliath.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
6/5/8 BAYLOR (6-0, 3-0) vs. NR/NR/NR KANSAS (2-4, 0-3)
Oct. 26, 2013 | 6:00 p.m. CT
Lawrence, Kan. | Memorial Stadium (50,071)

Listen | GametrackerGametracker | Game Notes Notes | Tickets | In-Game BlogSportStream | Gameday Central

ODB Game Hub: Baylor Bears vs. Kansas Jayhawks 2013
Stats Preview: Baylor vs. Kansas Stats Preview
First Look: Kansas Jayhawks
SB Nation Preview: Charlie Weis' JUCO Gambit
Official Preview: Outstanding stuff.
KU Roster/Depth Chart: 2013 Roster, Depth Chart
Baylor Game Notes: Depth Chart on page 11 of the .pdf
KU'S SB Nation Blog: Rock Chalk Talk
Spread: Baylor -34.5 (Over: 66)
TV Coverage: ESPNU
Weather Forecast: High of 59 for Saturday, 0% chance of rain
Uniforms: Stay Tuned...

Injury News:

Baylor -- Trevor Clemons-Valdez still not listed on the depth chart this week, so we'll probably get a heaping helping of our freshmen DTs in relief of starters Beau Blackshear and Suleiman Masumbuko. All other players who started against ISU are listed as starters now.

Kansas -- A diligent search for KU injury information revealed considerably more than I expected. 
Tony Pierson -- QUESTIONABLE for the game, apparently. talks hopefully about his return in the title but later lists his status as unknown.  I expect he probably plays, and they're just being coy.
Ben Heeney -- QUESTIONABLE for the game after missing last week's contest vs. OU (same link as above).  Sounds like he could play.  He leads the Jayhawks in tackles and is probably the best linebacker they have.
Andrew Turzilli -- OUT for Baylor.  Hasn't recovered like Weis hoped.

Brian Nance News:

Contemplating a run to challenge Ted Cruz in 2018.  Will have to decide between that and an appointment on the first manned Mars mission.  Neither should impact his eligibility at Baylor in any way.  Still redshirting.

The Montell Cozart Question:

Rather than write out meandering thoughts on the game like I've done in weeks past, I wanted to focus on something specific this week that I've seen come up a couple of times: the possibility that KU throws Montell Cozart at us.  NOTE: By "throw", I mean run. They might run Montell Cozart at us.

In theory, the idea makes perfect sense.  KU, like everyone else, saw Daniel Sams run all over us in Manhattan and realized they have someone on their roster who might be able to approximate that same effort.  His name is Montell Cozart, and he's a true freshman in 2013 (3* dual-threat QB recruit coming out) whose redshirt Weis decided to burn last week against OU in an attempt to spark the lifeless KU offense.  Cozart ended up playing 9 snaps for the Jayhawks once the game was firmly out of their reach to mixed results: he ran 3 times for 8 yards and handed the ball off 6 other times.  He has not yet attempted a pass.

Recognizing that coaching is as much as anything else a cat-and-mouse game of intentional deception and misinformation, it seems like Kansas intends to at least try Cozart against us for the reason I stated above.  They've spent much of this week opening up his particular playbook, giving him the opportunity to run more of the offense.  He's even throwing the ball, apparently.

From Weis' comments-- and again recognizing that he could be totally full of it, in addition to hot dogs-- I still firmly expect for Jake Heaps to start and receive the majority of playing time.  With Tony Pierson possibly coming back, a balanced offense with Heaps throwing and James Sims running is probably their best chance for sustained drives against our defense.  However, Baylor should be prepared for Weis, the former NFL OC and supposed offensive mastermind, to at least borrow from the Kansas State playbook with Cozart at some point, especially if things don't go well with Heaps for a series or two.

Baylor can probably make this all moot by coming out and scoring quickly, removing the option of a primarily-running QB from the table.  If you could use that offense to keep the game close, assuming it already was, you're probably not going to score points quickly enough with it to make up a gap of any size. Cozart might still play in that scenario in a "see what he's got" kind of situation, but the playcalling would probably change with the goal of the game no longer being to necessarily win.

Other Thoughts on the Game:

To be completely honest, I'm not entirely sure what to make of our defense.  The stats show it to be quite a strong unit indeed, much stronger than any of us expected, but I don't know if I buy them as totally representative of the truth moving forward.  Stated differently: I think they are very good; I don't know if they are Top 20 as the numbers suggest.

Unfortunately, KU's offense this week will probably give us no way to answer that question except in the negative, should KU come out and be successful against us.  Should they not, it doesn't really say much considering how awful their offense has been in past games.  The only way I can see the defense making a significant statement is by shutting them out, and that's extremely hard to do.  One big play, be it a long kickoff return or a pass where the corner falls down, can undo a game's worth of work in that regard.  The key for our defense to have a strong game, regardless of the ultimate perception, is probably obvious: we have to stop Kansas' rushing game with Sims and Cozart (should he play) and force Kansas to throw.  They don't protect the QB well at all, giving up 15 sacks on the season, and Heaps has as many interceptions (6) as touchdowns.  He also has exactly 1 game this entire season where he has completed more than 50% of his passes (though, in fairness, he has completed exactly 50% 3 times).

As for our offense, I expect that we will score points and plenty of them.  The only question I have there is how successful we will be running the ball.  If we can establish that aspect of the offense early, Briles could lean on the combination of Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk for the few first drives, at least.  If not, we might test Kansas' corners a few times and see their relative strength at not giving up big plays (#29 against explosive drives) works out against Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley.   Against a scheme that defines itself as "bend-but-don't-break", much as we do, I'll be very interested to see how we perform in the redzone coming off a week where that was a significant question.

UPDATE: Someone pointed this out on another board, and I completely missed it: if you click on the Depth Chart for Baylor linked above and let the .pdf open, you'll notice that we have two completely new kick returners.  One of them is the electrifying Corey Coleman, fresh off his TD return last week.  The other is Clay Fuller.  Levi Norwood and Darius Jones are now the second-team KRs.

My Prediction:

I like the matchups in this game better for our defense than our offense, since KU's offense has been an abject disaster this season in every sense of the word and we have reason to believe, coming off a dominant performance against the Cyclones, that our defense is capable of stopping the Jayhawks cold.  On the other side, I don't see Baylor scoring 70 or even 60 points on the road against a team that will likely attempt, at least, to limit our possessions.  I also wonder if we're beginning to see a pattern of concerted deliberation from the Baylor coaching staff in their playcalling in road games.

Last week, I was dead right on my individual predictions for the offense and dead wrong for the defense.  I massively underestimated our D's ability to stop the run and hold ISU out of the endzone.  Mea culpa, gentlemen.  This week, rather than state the obvious-- that Bryce Petty throws for 300+ and Lache/Glasco run for 200+ more, I'll simply predict another 600+ yard offensive day and leave it at that.

FINAL SCORE: Baylor 59, Kansas 17. The Bears hit 7-0 in time for a bye week before the showdown with OU two weeks from tonight.

Notice in the poll below that I added a new category!

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