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Baylor vs. West Virginia Preview/Prediction Thread

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Baylor takes to the road again for a matchup with the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown. We've seen fireworks both of the last two times these teams have played. Will we again?

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
at
4/4 BAYLOR (6-0, 3-0) at RV/RV WEST VIRGINIA (4-2, 2-1)
Oct. 18, 2014 | 11:00 a.m. CT
Morgantown, W.Va. | Milan Puskar Stadium (60,000)

TV: FOX Sports 1
Listen | Gametracker Gametracker | Game Notes Notes | Tickets Gameday Central

I guess we don't have a player preview video for this week from Baylor Athletics, which is a bit of a downer.

OPPONENT: West Virginia Mountaineers
ODB GAME HUB:
Baylor Bears vs. West Virginia Mountaineers 2014
ADVANCED STATS PREVIEW:
Baylor vs. WVU
OURDAILYPODCAST PREVIEW:
Get You Some, Bryce
ODB PREDICTS:
Baylor vs. WVU
MEET THE PRESS: Baylor vs. WVU
FIRST LOOK: Baylor vs. WVU
SB NATION BLOG: The Smoking Musket, at right
SPREAD: Baylor -8 (Open: Baylor -9.5)
TV COVERAGE:
FOX Sports 1
WEATHER FORECAST:
Rain showers in the morning becoming more intermittent in the afternoon. High 52F. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
BAYLOR UNIFORMS: Traditional Gold / White / White

SB Nation WVU Preview
BaylorBears.com Preview
Bears vs Mountaineers coverage

Weather Update:

I've kept a relatively close eye on things over the last few days for tomorrow's game in Morgantown, and we should note that the latest forecasts from Weather Underground give about a 30% chance of rain when the game begins at noon ET tomorrow.  At the same time, the temperature will actually be dropping all day from a midnight high of 59F to a gametime temperature of ~50.  Winds should be steady around 10 mph.

Injuries/Suspensions:

WVU: I'm not aware of any major injuries for WVU at this point, but it is worth talking about that the Mountaineers will have both of their best two corners, Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut, tomorrow.  Worley returned last week against Texas Tech from his legal troubles and is also the starting punt returner.  I believe WVU is at or close to full-strength.

Baylor: ... Is not.  With last night's news about RG Desmine Hilliard's wrist surgery, the Bears are now down two starters for the rest of the season, the other being DE Jamal Palmer.  Jarell Broxton will step in for Hilliard after getting his first start last week, while it looks like either Javonte Magee or K.J. Smith will start opposite Shawn Oakman.  Smith got the start and the vast majority of the playing time last week, so I'd expect for him to do so again.

As of this writing, whether Baylor will get back RB Johnny Jefferson and LB Aiavion Edwards is as yet unknown.  Should either or both not play, expect to see a lot of Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin running the ball and Taylor Young in Edwards' place at OLB.

Advanced Stats:

Category

Baylor (6-0)

WVU (4-2)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk 7 (26.6%)
50 (7.5%)
BAYLOR
Overall FEI Rk 8 (.230)
56 (.049)
Baylor
Overall S&P+ Rk 6 (244.2)
23 (225.7)
Baylor
Field Position Advantage 23 (.539) 72 (.490) BAYLOR

The Bears are a heavy favorite according to this week's Advanced Stats post, which may not tell the whole story, particularly with WVU returning to full strength on defense.  Still, as I said in that post, I feel very confident in our offense's ability to put up points tomorrow, and it at least appears that we have a significant edge on both sides of the ball.

Thoughts on the Game:

I'm seeing a lot of people wondering-- doubting, actually-- whether Baylor can rebound from last week's emotional win over TCU to go on the road this weekend and take down an upset-minded WVU team that has played well and lost to perhaps the two best one-loss teams in the country in Alabama and Oklahoma.  I'm less worried about that, specifically, than I am WVU just being a pretty good team capable of winning the game outright.  They are strong on offense, particularly in the pass, and they have one of the Big 12's best, if not the best, QB-WR combos in Clint Trickett and Kevin White.

It's worth noting going into this game that WVU has apparently returned to a defense that is relatively foreign to most Baylor fans: the 3-3-5.  This alignment uses 3 down linemen backed by 3 linebackers, a hybrid player known as the "Spur", and four secondary players including two corners and two safeties.  As far as I know, WVU is one of the few teams left playing this scheme, although it is something we talked about on the blog before with respect to ULM in 2012. (Also, the Alabama site took a more recent look before their game this year).  Up front, WVU will throw Noble Nwachukwu (6-2, 265), Kyle Rose (6-4, 294), and Shaq Riddick (6-6, 242) at us, with Wes Tonkery (6-2, 223), Nick Kwiatkowski (6-2, 236), and Edward Muldrow (6-3, 205) at the linebackers and KJ Dillon (6-1, 206) at the spur.  All are at least juniors except Nwachukwu, a sophomore, and there is a significant amount of experience on this defense, led by safety Karl Joseph's 31 career starts.   The real reason I mention this 3-3-5 defense is that it is designed to create havoc on the offensive line with extra blitzers and stunts, and with Broxton getting just his second career start, that could be something watch.  The silver lining here is that WVU's defense, for all that experience and a relatively unfamiliar base alignment, simply hasn't been that good this season, and there is ample reason to believe that Baylor will be able to move the ball with success against them, particularly on the ground.

When WVU has the ball, the biggest matchup I'm looking at in this game comes on the outside, where we can probably assume that Baylor CB Xavien Howard will draw the unsavory task of defending Kevin White, easily WVU's best player.  White leads the nation in receiving this season and has been simply unstoppable, so I'm not expecting Howard to lock him down completely.  It should, however, be the first time this season that Howard has seen a concerted effort to test him, and I'm looking forward to it.  No disrespect intended to Mario Alford, WVU's #2 WR and primary kick returner, but they're going to need to get the ball to White to generate offense, especially with the pressure our offense should put on them.

Another thing worth talking about here when WVU has the ball is their offensive balance.  Though Holgorsen comes from the Air Raid coaching tree of Mike Leach, he is not at all of the "throw at all costs" type, and his Mountaineer offense actually has the second-most rushing attempts in the conference with 267 through 6 games (Baylor is #1 at 302) vs. 260 passes.  Holgorsen is particularly fond of running when people expect him to pass, like on second or third and long, and if we're not ready for it, we could get gashed by either Rushel Shell (111 rushes for 490 yards) or Wendell Smallwood (57 for 298).  The key there will be getting started quickly when we're on offense, forcing WVU to try to keep up.

My Prediction:

I'm on a run now of completely blowing recent predictions (last week I had us beating TCU 35-24), but I'm going to keep at it because I don't care.  In this game, I've maintained all week that I don't expect WVU to be able to prevent Baylor from moving the ball consistently and scoring points.  Even with Worley, one of the best CBs in the conference, back and another game under his belt, I still believe that's true.  Baylor simply has too many weapons in Antwan Goodley, Corey Coleman, K.D. Cannon, and Jay Lee, to say nothing of Levi Norwood (who we haven't seen much of this year), Clay Fuller, or Davion Hall, who should return this week after missing the TCU game.

The spread for this game has now settled at Baylor as the road favorite at -8, and I'm taking Baylor.  I don't think it will be a blowout because I respect WVU's offense and its big-play ability, but there's a lot to like in this game for the Bears.  I especially like how Shock Linwood is playing right now, even with Broxton stepping in for Hilliard on the right side of the line.

Final Score: Baylor 52, West Virginia 35

Give me your predictions in the comments below and vote in the poll!