17/16 BAYLOR (3-0, 0-0) vs. NR/NR WEST VIRGINIA (3-2, 1-1)
Oct. 5, 2013 | 7:00 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | Floyd Casey Stadium (50,000)
TV: FOX Sports 1
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ODB Game Hub: Baylor Bears vs. West Virginia Mountaineers 2013
Stats Preview: Baylor vs. WVU Statistical Comparison
SBNation Preview: Dana Holgerson's Biggest Challenge Yet
First Look: West Virginia Mountaineers
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I meant to do a Player Preview post this week like I did with ULM, and I might still. It's difficult, though, with WVU simply because things are so in flux with basically their entire team right now. They don't know who the QB will be, although smart money is probably on Clint Trickett, and most of the playmakers you'd recognize straightaway are gone. Still, there are things we can look at...
When WVU Has The Ball...
West Virginia's Offense
At this point, after last week's successful game (so to speak) against Oklahoma State, I have to believe that Clint Trickett (who I originally typed as Clink Trippett, and I think I might refer to as such from now on) will be the starter if he's healthy. Whether he will be, after playing most of the second half last week with a shoulder injury of some kind, is the big question.
Trickett arrived at WVU just a few short months ago after transferring from Florida State via the graduate transfer rule. He also considered Auburn and a few other places before settling on the Mountaineers. When the year began, Holgorsen and staff didn't intend for Trickett to start, but injuries to and the ineffectiveness of the first two options, Ford Childress and Paul Millard, cleared the path for Trickett's upset win over OSU last weekend. It's still possible that injury keeps Trickett out, in which case we might see Millard start in his place, but I doubt it.
UPDATE: Trickett is starting. That was the least-surprising news ever.
Because Trickett struggles generally in deeper throws, as a result of less-than-stellar arm strength, Baylor may attempt to lock down the short and intermediate routes, forcing Trickett to throw over the top to beat us. I realize that may scare some who watched Buffalo do so effectively (early, at least) against us, but it's probably the best strategy. Buckle down on the shorter stuff, load up to stop Houston transfer Charles Sims from establishing a running game, and force Trickett to beat you. The Air Raid offense relies on getting QBs as many easy throws as possible to WRs in space. Trickett isn't Geno Smith. He's probably not even Nick Florence, considering he doesn't have nearly the same time in WVU's system that Flo had in ours.
Not much to say about this side of things since the Ahmad Dixon situation worked itself to a tenuously positive conclusion (for the team, anyway). Dixon being back means we should have our complete defense from the ULM game, along with starting DT Suleiman Masumbuko, who should slide back into the spot ably filled by Byron Bonds against the Warhawks. That's where the Depth Chart has him in the game notes, anyway.
The key for the defense is as I said: make Trickett beat you. Air Raid offenses want to throw the ball quickly, negating the pass rush and letting athletic wide receivers do things that athletic wide receivers do. Going over the top like Geno and friends did last year really isn't all that typical of the Air Raid; we were just that bad. It sounds weird to say, but we probably want to make them try to do it again, especially with Trickett's limitations. Even if you give up a few big plays, as we've done in the past, stopping the running game and limiting short throws could keep WVU out of the endzone. They're going to need touchdowns, after all.
When Baylor Has The Ball...
West Virginia's Defense
Make no mistake about it-- this is the best defense we've played all year. It might actually be the best defense we'll play for some time, at least until the Thursday night showdown with OU. That doesn't mean we should be scared; we just need to be cognizant that things probably won't be as easy against West Virginia as they have been before. They're extremely active on the defensive line, especially with DT Shaq Rowell, and their secondary is much more experienced than a year ago. I highly recommend that you click the link I posted above to S11's preview at BearsTruth and watch the video he's made about their defense. It's worth the price (free) of admission.
Aside from the battle up front, which is always worth watching, I'll be looking at our wide receivers to see how they handle what will probably be the first real physical play they see this season. WVU's defense likes to hit, especially at the safety position, perhaps even a bit too much. It will be interesting to see how Tevin Reese, in particular, handles that over the course of an entire game. I'm not saying he'll get scared, by any stretch, since he might just run over the top and score touchdownstouchdownstouchdowns. But it will be more difficult than it has been, for sure.
Earlier this week, Briles reported that Baylor will be getting back two major pieces to our offensive puzzle in RB Glasco Martin and TE Jordan Najvar. Of the two, Najvar is arguably more important to this game due to his strength as a blocker and the fact that Lache Seastrunk is awesome. But I'm still extremely glad to have Glasco back, if only because we haven't yet had to perform much on the goal line or in short yardage, and that's where he excels.
To be honest, despite knowing that West Virginia's defense is either good or quite good (depending on how much stock you put into their performances against the Oklahoma schools), I'm not all that worried. Our offensive line has been as good or better than the group we had last season. Our running back situation is one of the best in the country now that Glasco is healthy. We've seen what Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese can do on the outside, with Corey Coleman, Levi Norwood, and others on the inside. We're going to score points.
Somehow, despite predicting that Baylor would win by 42 points, I still managed to short-change the Bears against ULM two weeks ago. They won by 63. Saturday's game has a similar spread to that one (around -28 at most places), but a totally different feel, with several places picking us to win comfortably, but not cover. I'm still going to predict the Bears with the spread, but not nearly so easily.
OFFENSIVELY: You're not going to believe this, but Baylor will score early, forcing WVU to keep up with an offensive tempo they probably can't match. The offense will play all, or nearly all, of the game, with the issue still at least somewhat in doubt into the fourth quarter. Baylor won't score 70, but we'll score 56 or more with our starters playing the entire game (or close to it). I can't decide if Lache or Bryce has the big game on Saturday. I'm leaning Bryce.
DEFENSIVELY: Baylor bottles up the WVU running game, and Trickett makes a few throws that cause Baylor fans to wet themselves just slightly with flashbacks to last season. It's not enough, and West Virginia scores something like 24 points for the entire game.
FINAL SCORE: Baylor 56, West Virginia 24.
Now I'll probably be completely wrong, but let's hope not.