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Baylor vs. West Virginia — Thoughts, Notes, Prediction

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Game number 6 kicks off in almost exactly 24 hours. Let’s talk about it.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

MATCHUP: Baylor Bears (4-1, 2-1) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (2-3, 0-2)
LOCATION: Waco, Texas
ODB GAME HUB: Baylor Bears vs. West Virginia Mountaineers 2021
OPPONENT’S SB NATION BLOG: Smoking Musket
COLLEGEFOOTBALLDATA.COM TEAM PAGES: Baylor | West Virginia
WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE: West Virginia
GAME NOTES (INCLUDING DEPTH CHART): Here
BAYLORBEARS.COM GAMEDAY: Here.
OURDAILYPODCAST: Gut Check Time
SPREAD: Baylor -2.5, O/U 44.5
TV COVERAGE: FS1, 11:00 AM
UNIFORM: All green everything:

WEATHER (IN WACO): From Wunderground—At start of game, 81 degrees with 12 mph winds from the SSW (so could blow into the stadium), heating up to 89 degrees with 15 mph winds from the S by the end of the game. It’s going to be hot.

Do you ever get to the end of a week and realize that you didn’t accomplish about 80% of what you set out to do that week? That’s me right now. I didn’t do a First Look, didn’t break out the advanced stats like I wanted to, didn’t really do anything for this game. Some of that was, honestly, a little bit of disappointment coming off the loss to Oklahoma State. Most of it was this week being hellacious in several different ways. But we can change things now.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

How Did We Get Here?

Coming into this game, Baylor is now 4-1 (2-1 in conference), while West Virginia is 2-3 (0-2). Both teams are coming off a loss—Baylor to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, and West Virginia to Texas Tech at home. Baylor’s record first:

  • Baylor 29, Texas State 20
  • Baylor 66, Texas Southern 7
  • Baylor 45, Kansas 7 (at KU)
  • Baylor 31, Iowa State 29
  • Oklahoma State 24, Baylor 14

Now West Virginia:

  • Maryland 30, West Virginia 24
  • West Virginia 66, Long Island University 0
  • West Virginia 27, Virginia Tech 21
  • Oklahoma 16, West Virginia 13
  • Texas Tech 23, West Virginia 20

Advanced Stats Overview:

Baylor vs. WVU (F+)

Rk Team F+ OF+ Rk DF+ Rk FEI Rk SP+ Rk
Rk Team F+ OF+ Rk DF+ Rk FEI Rk SP+ Rk
37 Baylor 0.62 -0.05 72 1.05 18 0.3 37 9.9 36
49 West Virginia 0.45 -0.02 70 0.79 26 0.15 56 9.4 40

As you might imagine, last week’s game absolutely tanked our offensive efficiency ratings. That will happen when you only get 10 first downs in an entire game. F+ appears to think these offenses are evenly matched, while Baylor has a slight edge on the defensive side. Still, it is extremely close, particularly in SP+, which has Baylor 36th and West Virginia 40th.

Baylor vs. WVU (FEI)

Rk Team FEI OFEI Rk DFEI Rk NDE Rk NPD Rk NAY Rk NPP Rk ELS Rk GLS Rk ALS Rk
Rk Team FEI OFEI Rk DFEI Rk NDE Rk NPD Rk NAY Rk NPP Rk ELS Rk GLS Rk ALS Rk
37 Baylor 0.3 0.1 57 0.49 23 0.55 46 0.5 47 0.065 44 0.83 39 0.57 52 1.19 70 1.98 78
56 West Virginia 0.15 -0.15 80 0.45 29 -0.1 73 -0.04 70 -0.013 74 0.39 61 0.62 42 1.47 34 2.51 26

I pulled down the FEI ratings from FootballOutsiders.com to provide a little more context, and before we get into them, here’s an explainer from the same page:

FEI ratings (FEI) represent the per-possession scoring advantage each team would be expected to have on a neutral field against an average opponent. Offense ratings (OFEI) and defense ratings (DFEI) represent the per-possession scoring advantages for each team unit against an average opponent. Net drive efficiency (NDE) is the sum of offensive drive efficiency and defensive drive efficiency. Net points per drive (NPD) is the difference between points scored per offensive drive and points allowed per opponent offensive drive. Net available yards percentage (NAY) is the difference between offensive available yards percentage and opponent offensive available yards percentage. Net yards per play (NPP) is the difference between drive yards per offensive play and drive yards allowed per opponent offensive play.

Here I would note that FEI, which is possession-based, likes our offense quite a bit more than WVU’s, and the defenses are more evenly matched. This actually fits with what I’ve seen from the two teams in my limited viewing of West Virginia this season, although I could understand why you’d disagree about our offense coming off the Oklahoma State game. It’s not particularly deep or insightful to say that the way this game ends up will turn on whether that offensive performance was an aberration or a true representation. Generally speaking, the advanced stats appear to believe that this game should be relatively close, which supports the Baylor -2.5 spread as we approach the game.

Thoughts/Prediction:

I want to point out something that I linked above in the intro that hasn’t been available to us in the past: team pages from CollegeFootballData.com. They introduced these last week basically right after I finished the First Look, and they do a good job of highlighting the same information that I was trying to pull, which is, once again, not opponent adjusted.

One thing that concerns me from looking at the teams stacked up against each other is WVU’s defensive stuff rate, which is quite good at 29%. That means their defense stops the opponent offense at or behind the line of scrimmage on 29% of their running plays. That’s the highest rate we will have faced thus far. This matches up with Baylor’s best offensive trait, a low stuff rate, and will likely decide the outcome of the game unless Baylor is willing to throw more often on first downs, something we did not see against Oklahoma State. Hopefully we will, because the big weakness for WVU’s defense appears to be explosive passing plays. That means if we can protect Bohanon and are willing to let him take a few shots, a few should connect for big plays.

On the other side, WVU’s offense doesn’t appear to skew too much in any one direction, although they also have a strong offensive stuff rate that, when paired with a low explosive run rate, appears to indicate a decent, but not great, running game. Their explosive passing play rate is fairly high, though, as is our corresponding defensive rate. That is worrisome and a potential problem in this game if our secondary cannot cover down the field or we are unable to generate sufficient pass rush when WVU tries to throw it deep.

Travis pointed out something on Twitter while I was writing this that is worth noting, and it is the possibility that WVU’s backup QB, Garrett Greene, gets substantial playing time. If Baylor is able to generate turnovers off Jarret Doege, this becomes even more likely. Greene basically can’t throw and has only attempted 8 passes this season, but he is WVU’s second-leading rusher with 28 rushing attempts and 6.3 yards/carry.

As to how the game will turn out, I think Baylor’s offensive staff will finally take the offensive training wheels off in front of what should be a lively home crowd because they probably don’t have much of a choice to do otherwise. The possibility that we can grind drives out against WVU given how much havoc their front seven causes appears low unless the OL suddenly regains its early form. And if we come out attempting to do that every drive like we did last game, WVU is going to key off it just like OSU did. Baylor needs to put the game more in Gerry’s hands running and passing and let him use his skills. It may backfire in terms of a turnover (or two), but it needs to happen. And I think it will.

I’m taking Baylor 27, WVU 21.

Poll

Predict the outcome of tomorrow’s Baylor-BYU Game

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Baylor wins, handily (17+)
    (39 votes)
  • 18%
    Baylor wins, comfortably (11-16)
    (48 votes)
  • 35%
    Baylor wins, close (4-10)
    (91 votes)
  • 15%
    Baylor wins, squeak (1-3)
    (39 votes)
  • 5%
    BYU wins, squeak (1-3)
    (13 votes)
  • 5%
    BYU wins, close (4-10)
    (14 votes)
  • 1%
    BYU wins, comfortably (11-16)
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    BYU wins, handily (17+)
    (6 votes)
254 votes total Vote Now