In a 2011 season marked by a thriller almost every Saturday, last year’s 36-35 triumph over Baylor was probably the second most exciting of the year (the quadruple overtime win against Texas A&M obviously being the first). Although Collin Klein failed to exhibit much passing prowess, he helped lead the team to 210 rushing yards while giving Robert Griffin III his first loss of the year. And while RGIII has moved on to the NFL, Klein is back for a rematch that should see the Wildcats surpass last year’s tremendous rushing effort.
The Wildcat offense was held to 23 points against TCU last week, its second-lowest output of the year and 19 fewer than its season average. Kansas State should double that output on Saturday as they transition from playing a TCU team allowing 24 points per game to a Baylor team allowing 39. Baylor has been equally ineffective in stopping both the run and the pass, and is ninth in the league in both categories. Overall, the Bears’ defense ranks last in the Big 12 in average yards at 520 – the only team giving up more than 500.
This could spell bad things in Waco as K-State has a shot of eclipsing 60 points for the first time this year. Bill Snyder called a more conservative approach against TCU and played the game of field position, opting for safe plays that didn’t risk turnovers. When K-State’s defense holds, this is a luxury the Wildcats possess. However, Baylor is capable of airing it out against anyone, and boasts the second-best offense in the country. As such, the coaching staff will be inclined to put up points early and often to ensure a lead unsusceptible to a gimmicky Baylor comeback. Expect yards to go around for everyone, particularly on the ground – rushing the ball will keep quarterback Nick Florence off the field and exploit a front seven incapable of shedding blocks. Angelo Pease didn’t earn any gold stars with a late fumble last weekend against TCU that led to a Horned Frogs touchdown, and John Hubert should receive the majority of game time while his backup works his way out of the doghouse. The Baylor defense has yet to demonstrate an ability to outmuscle its opponents or make good decisions, and option right should be a familiar play by the end of the night. Expect K-State to isolate defenders and make them defend the pitch Klein has perfected this year, with Hubert left unguarded for an easy touchdown run at least once in the game.
Although the Wildcats will be run-first, Klein will also record at least one passing touchdown because: 1. He can; and 2. It’s imperative he achieve some success through the air to put the TCU game behind him and build confidence leading up to the showdown against Texas. With an offensive attack slanted heavily toward the ground game, Baylor can be expected to sell out against the run at some point – particularly if it can’t find a way to stop the option attack. When this happens, Baylor’s cornerbacks lack the talent to play Chris Harper and Tyler Lockett man-on-man, and one or both of the receivers should have little trouble getting open against a Cover 1 scheme.
Depending on how aggressive the Wildcats are on Saturday, Kansas State is very capable of hanging 60 points on the board. A big lead should allow Pease to see some extended playing time and regain the trust of his coaches. Keep an eye on receivers Tyler Lockett (ankle) and Curry Sexton (shoulder), who both left the TCU game with injuries and did not return. As per Bill Snyder’s SOP, no updates have been provided on either’s status. Although Harper and Tramaine Thompson are more than capable of combining to provide a serious receiving threat, Lockett and Curry helped stretch defenses while Lockett has also been named the Big 12 special teams player of the week twice this year due to his return capabilities. Thompson has also provided a significant presence in the return game and his role will only expand if Lockett is limited.