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Baylor vs. Kansas State Preview/Prediction Thread/Poll

The Baylor Bears take on the revenge-minded Kansas State Wildcats this weekend in the first road test of the season. Will it be another blowout, with the offense clicking in ways we've never seen before? Or will it be much closer as Snyder works his magic?

15/15 BAYLOR (4-0, 1-0) vs. NR/NR KANSAS STATE (2-3, 0-2)
Oct. 12, 2013 | 2:30 p.m. CT
Manhattan, Kan. | Bill Snyder Family Stadium (50,000)

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

ODB Game Hub: Baylor Bears vs. Kansas State Wildcats 2013
Stats Preview:
Baylor vs. KSU Stats Comparison
First Look:
Kansas State Wildcats
SB Nation Preview
: Pros, Cons, and Kansas State
Official Preview
: Outstanding stuff.
KSU Roster/Depth Chart: 2013 Roster, Depth Chart (from BOTC)
Baylor Game Notes: Depth Chart on page 11 of the .pdf
KSU'S SB Nation Blog: Bring On The Cats
Spread: Baylor -17 (Over: 72)
TV Coverage: FOX
Weather Forecast: High of 73 for Saturday, 30% chance of rain (in Manhattan)
Uniforms: Gold/white/gold

Injury News:

Baylor -- Everyone who played last week is expected to play this week.

S Ahmad Dixon: Will probably have to deal with a bruised hand for at least the time being.  Will play.
DT Trevor Clemons-Valdez: Not listed on the Depth Chart. Didn't play last week.
RT Troy Baker: Played last week against WVU after season debut against ULM.  Will play.

Kansas State -- Probably missing two major players on offense, one on defense

OL Boston Stiverson: Will miss the game.
WR Tyler Lockett: Questionable, rumor is that he will not play.
WR Tramaine Thompson: Questionable, haven't heard anything.

Brian Nance News:

Still redshirting. I'll keep you posted.

When Kansas State Has the Ball...

Expect Daniel Sams to touch it first (as the QB) on the majority of plays.  Jake Waters will be the nominal starter at QB for KSU, but Sams will get more run.  The guys at BOTC are saying it; people who know on twitter are saying it; it just makes sense.  Sams gives them more options, though he is primarily a runner, than Waters.

I've said it now multiple times in multiple different ways, including in the stats comparison yesterday, on the Podcast last night, and elsewhere.  I'll say it again now: KSU is going to try to run on us.  Repeatedly.  How much they focus on it probably has a lot to do with whether Lockett and Thompson play, something we can't really be sure of until the game starts.  KSU has no incentive to release the information early, so they won't.

If Lockett and/or Thompson play, expect to see more Waters than we otherwise would, especially if the Bears build a lead and KSU has to throw.  If they don't, Snyder really has no options other than attempt to grind out possessions with Sams and the running game, led by our old friend John Hubert, to keep the overall number of possessions low.

I'm not overly concerned about that approach, which seems totally logical. Our run defense, with Beau Blackshear and Suleiman Masumbuko up front, backed by Bryce Hager, Eddie Lackey, and Sam Holl at LB and Ahmad Dixon at safety behind, has been quite strong this season.  I expect we will challenge Sams to beat us down the field exactly the same way we did West Virginia a week ago by pulling our safeties into the box and clamping down on the short and intermediate routes.  Two players to watch in this regard are TEs Andre McDonald and Zach Trujillo.  Snyder is very conservative offensively, and he loves using his TEs.  That could be a potential mismatch in KSU's favor against someone like Sam Holl at NB.

Prashanth asked last night on the podcast whether it would make sense for Baylor to focus on turnovers or flooding the box.  I chose the latter, and I stand by it now.  The turnovers our defense hopes for should happen naturally, when/if Kansas State gets down and has to throw the football.  The key in the early going will be to stop the run, giving our offense the ball back so we have a chance to force their hand.  To stop them from limiting our possessions, we have to limit their plays.  More plays = more opportunities to milk the clock.

When Baylor Has the Ball...

In the past, KSU's defense has been anchored by outstanding linebackers like Arthur Brown, who absolutely killed us in 2011, or defensive linemen, like Meshak Williams, the guy we were so worried about last year.  They've also had safeties like Ty Zimmerman and corners like Nigel Malone.  Of those guys, only Zimmerman remains.

From 2012 to 2013, Kansas State's defense lost their top 5 tacklers on the defensive line, the top 2 tacklers at LB, and 3 of the top 4 from the secondary; although, in fairness, that doesn't include the aforementioned Zimmerman, who missed 2 games last season (including ours) with an injury. This is a defense with a lot of new or newer players still trying to find its feet.  Nowhere is that more evident than on the defensive line.

Going into last season's game, when Baylor was the decided underdog, we at ODB wondered how Kansas State might play the Bears.  Would they try to limit the big plays that might be our only chance to beat them, or would they make Nick Florence beat them by stopping the run.  As it turned out, they did the former, keeping the safeties deep.  Baylor ran wild as a result, with Lache Seastrunk going for 185 yards on 19 carries.

My guess is that they try to do the same thing-- take away big plays down the field-- for exactly the opposite reason.  They, along with the rest of the nation, know that if they give our receivers single coverage, we'll burn them, negating any gains they might have made through time of possession.  I think we'll see a defensive strategy designed to make us work by forcing everything short.  Make Bryce Petty complete passes consistently, something he hasn't really had to do yet this season, in an atmosphere where he might get rattled.  The problem there is that our running game that torched them last year is probably even better now, and that will take off a considerable amount of pressure.

In fact, from Baylor's side, the running game will probably be the focus.  We'll run early and often with Lache, Glasco Martin, and Rashodrick Linwood, using the physicality of our offensive line against a rushing defense that is 92nd in the country by S&P+.  Doing so will help sustain drives without asking Petty to perform at an extremely high level in his first road start ever, something I think Briles would prefer if given the chance.  That's not to say we won't test them; rather, our offense is so predicated on the run that we will try to make it as easy as possible for Petty when we do.

My Prediction:

I've gotten this far predicting that Baylor covers every game, and I don't plan to stop now.  At this point, I'm a firm believer that we have the very best offense in the country, something the Wildcats won't be able to stop consistently.  Still, I'm going to predict once again that we will not score 70 points, simply because KSU won't give us enough possessions to do so.  For that same reason, however, I think we'll see our offensive starters in the fourth quarter for the first time this season, giving Bryce and Lache, as well as Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese, the opportunity to find out how that feels.

Honestly, when I look at this game and how the teams stack up, I see an even bigger mismatch than I did a week ago, when we torched WVU.  Still, I'm not comfortable predicting a similar scoring output for two reasons: 1) KSU's offensive scheme (or what I expect it to be), and 2) the fact that it is a road game.  That Snyder is prominently involved makes a huge impact, as well.  He gets teams to do crazy things.

I just want to point out, I missed last week's final margin by 1 point.  It shouldn't have been that close.

OFFENSIVELY: Baylor is going to run for 300+ yards in this game.  Maybe 350.  Lache will get the most, in his biggest game yet this season.  Glasco will be second, now that he's fully healthy once again.  That 1-2 punch will be too much for KSU's defense to stop, and that's before Shock Linwood even comes into the game. Antwan Goodley is the leading receiver in my least-controversial prediction ever.

DEFENSIVELY: The Bears continue their strong performance against the run. Sams gets the most snaps at QB for the Wildcats by quite a bit, giving way to Waters when KSU decides they have to throw.  Because they're running the ball, Bryce Hager leads the team in tackles once again, followed by Sam Holl from the NB spot.  Demetri Goodson gets an interception from an errant Sams pass.

FINAL SCORE: Baylor 56, Kansas State 28.

Now I'll probably be completely wrong, but let's hope not!

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