We have a three-way tie for second place in the Big 12! With three games left against the number one team and two other number two teams, the remaining weeks are surely going to be a challenge for the Bears.
The three-game gauntlet begins with a home contest against the Kansas State Wildcats. In the overall advanced stats, K State has the edge: SP+ ranks them 14th (Baylor 17th) and FEI ranks them 10th (Baylor 26th).
Below is a analysis of K State on offense and defense with their performance separated by standard downs and passing downs, along with reasons why Baylor can win this game.
Kansas State Offense
K State has a decent offense, but it is nowhere near elite. Their 30.6 points per game is near the bottom of the conference, but that low total is deceiving given their overall efficiency metrics. SP+ gives them the 32nd best offense in the country, while FEI has their offense all the way up to 23rd.
On standard downs, Kansas State runs the ball more than any other team Baylor has played thus far. Their 5.5 yards per carry falls just behind Oklahoma and Kansas, and their 18% stuff rate is middle of the pack. If you’re a Baylor fan, this is good news, as the Baylor defense holds their opponents far below their season average in yards per carry.
Less than 40% of the time, K State will decide to throw the ball on standard downs, and they earn a decent 10.6 yards per completion — pretty average for Baylor opponents. They also give up a slightly above average 4.3% sack rate. Expect similar numbers against Baylor.
Put everything together, and the Wildcats have a surprisingly low 48% success rate on standard downs.
Kansas State does much better, relatively speaking, on passing downs. Their 45% success rate is second only to Oklahoma State, and they do so by maintaining a balanced offense. Only KU runs the ball more in these “passing situations” than Kansas State, but they come no where near the Wildcat’s efficiency.
K State average an incredible 16 yards per completion and 9.7 yards per carry on passing downs. They rarely get sacked, and they rarely get stuffed. This will be, without a doubt, the best offense on passing downs Baylor has faced.
Unfortunately, this is one area where Baylor’s defense really struggles. They give up an infuriating 55% success rate and above average yards per completion, and they struggle to generate sacks or stuff runs for negative yards. If you’re looking for a bright side, it’s Baylor’s slightly above average run defense.
Kansas State Defense
Kansas State is a perfect example of a team that plays complimentary football. They do a great job extending drives on offense, giving their defense time to rest, and then their defense does a great job giving their low-point-scoring offense enough headroom to win the game. FEI rates K State’s defense as the 9th best unit in the country, and SP+ rates them as the 15th best.
On standard downs, K State holds their opponents far below their season average success rate. They do so by giving up a below average 11.8 yards per completion and 4.7 yards per carry while creating havoc with an above average 7% sack rate and passable 15.4% stuff rate.
Baylor will test the Wildcat defense with more rushes than any of their other opponents outside of Missouri average, and they’ll do so with a slightly above average 4.9 yards per carry. The Bears stand out with the lowest stuff rate allowed of any of K State’s prior opponents — 14.2%.
Baylor has less success when they drop back to pass. Their 11.7 yards per completion are middle of the pack, and their 6.5% sack rate allowed is above average. Baylor needs to set the tone early with consistent gains on the ground, especially considering what’s coming up if they get behind the chains...
Where Kansas State’s defense really makes their mark is on passing downs. They hold their opponents to a far-below-average 35.8% success rate, 10.8 yards per completion, and 4.7% yards per rush. This is due to a conservative, yet consistent, defense, as their average sack rate and stuff rate are well below what their opponents typically give up on passing downs.
This will be an interesting matchup for the Bears. They run the ball more than most teams on passing downs despite their 5.4 yards per carry being lower than most. They pass the ball a little more effectively, 12.5 yards per completion, and do a great job avoiding sacks. Be thankful that I’m not on the coaching staff, because it’s not obvious just looking at these numbers what Baylor should do on third and long.
SP+ predicts a narrow 2 point victory for Baylor (thanks home field advantage!), 28 to 26, while FEI likes Kansas State winning 32 to 26. ESPN’s FPI sides with SP+ this time, giving Baylor a surprising 61% chance of winning.
THROW THE NUMBERS OUT THE WINDOW.
Kansas State has been ranked while playing against Baylor only three times since 2003: in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In 2010, the unranked Bears clinched bowl eligibility for the first time since 1995 with a thrilling 47-42 homecoming victory over #22 Kansas State. In 2012, the #1 ranked Wildcats came to Floyd Casey and were obliterated 52 to 24. Most recently, in 2014, Baylor won their second Big 12 title with a 38-27 victory over #9 Kansas State.
Can history repeat itself on Saturday?