As much as I love what statistics, both basic and advanced, can tell us about a team, you'll rarely see me argue that they give us the complete picture. In an ideal scenario, you merge metrics with other types of evidence. I can think of few better types of evidence than the thoughts of Jon Morse, managing editor of SBN's Kansas State blog Bring On The Cats and world famous body builder.* He was kind enough to answer a few questions on short notice for us and give us some additional insight.
1. Baylor showed against Oklahoma that they could execute against soft coverage in the secondary and march down the field. Against teams that played aggressive coverage and blitzing schemes, like West Virginia and UT, the Baylor offense struggled. Do you think we'll see Bill Snyder move away from his usual focus on prevention of big plays to focus on a more aggressive defense and do you think Kansas State has the personnel to do this?
With the caveat that we're a little nervous about the secondary's ability to cover when blitzing, yes, K-State's got the personnel. They haven't NOT blitzed this year, but Bill Snyder and Tom Hayes haven't shown much inclination to rely on the blitz that much this year. We'll see if they break tendency.
2. In past years, Kansas State has generally prefered to control the clock and time of possession by moving slowly on offense with a strong focus on a (clever) rush attack. However, this year Kansas State has an average rushing attack and Baylor's rush defense may be its strongest feature. Why do you think Kansas State will or won't be able to rush the ball against Baylor?
I think K-State is going to have to pass to set up the run in this contest. They have shown zero creativity running the ball this year, there's been a ridiculous lack of play-action, and it seems like 80% of the time when they do choose to run off the snap the defense smells it as strongly as if your neighbor's smoking ribs.
Then again, when the running game hasn't been working, Jake Waters has executed the short passing game to near-perfection, and K-State's been able to eat clock that way. So that's an aspect to keep an eye on. If K-State's running for no yardage then picking up a first down on a couple of five-yard passes to Curry Sexton, is that any different than running the ball?
3. Do you think Bill Snyder will open up the passing attack to take advantage of an up and down secondary and will it be enough to score the requisite 30-40 points?
I'd say the passing attack's already pretty open. Waters has thrown for over 700 yards in the last two games, compared to only 195 yards on the ground. And he's hit 45 of 64 attempts. That's over 70% completion rate. If Baylor's secondary is as sketchy as some people think, watch out.
4. Why does Kansas State's Special teams grade out so strongly and is it good enough to make the difference against a Baylor special teams that grades out as average to above average?
Great kick coverage, for starters; against West Virginia, up until the final kickoff before the Mountaineers' last gasp, the Wildcats had forced West Virginia into a starting post-kickoff field position inside their own 20, and the couch burners had exactly zero return yards on punts. K-State's also adept at blocking kicks, and then there's the return game, where Morgan Burns is extremely dangerous on kickoffs and Lockett is, well, Lockett on punt returns.
So yeah, it's definitely enough of an advantage to make a difference in a game.
5. What's your final prediction for the game?
I have no idea! Baylor could rout K-State; after all, TCU did, and the game's in Waco. K-State has an unfortunate tendency to freeze up in huge games (which doesn't make any sense at all, because you'd think a team which wins ten games a year by doing all the little things right would perform better in games like this).
But this is a different situation, because while it's a big game, it's not a game where K-State is assured of some glorious reward for winning. The Wildcats will earn their way into a New Year's Six bowl with a win, and there's the barest sliver of a chance to grab the fourth spot in the playoff if certain things break their way this weekend (and most of those things, they'll know about before they take the field). But there's no guarantee of anything like there was in 1998 and 2012; this is more akin to 2003.
And we know what happened then.
So I think this is probably a close game, and the difference is going to come down to whether Bryce Petty's playing and effective. But I figure Baylor probably comes out ahead.
BONUS: Are there any good local beers from Kansas that native Texans should try to acquire and/or sample? If so, which?
Well, Boulevard is technically a Missouri beer, but only by a couple-hundred yards. Aside from that, Tallgrass is the standard. Some people will argue Free State is, but they're based in Lawrence. So we OBVIOUSLY can't agree with THAT.
Thank you to Jon Morse for doing this, especially on short notice. I have to say, I'm much less confident after doing this. If Bill Snyder is willing to rely on a pass heavy offense, then the Waters-Lockett-Sexton triumvirate combined with fantastic special teams are going to make for an incredibly difficult matchup. Our Baylor Bears will have to be at their best if they are going to be able to pull out a win, let alone cover the spread in impressive #GameControl fashion.
Make sure to visit BringOnTheCats.com and follow him @jonfmorse for all of your Kansas State news needs.