Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Unless you live under a rock or are simply choosing not to believe Baylor’s offense has done the things it’s done, you know that Oregon does not have the attack that’s frightening defensive coordinators more than any other in the nation. That offense does not lie in Columbus, Ohio, or in SEC country. It practices at a small, private school in Waco and is currently the source of more nightmares than the movie Saw when it first came out. And K-State is about to do something no one else has come close to doing: limit it.
Quickly, here are the pertinent stats on the offense that are making Baylor a 17-point favorite this Saturday:
- #1 in points per game (70.5), yards per game (779.5), and yards per play (9.6);
- 14 of 35 scoring drives (40 percent) have taken 60 seconds or less;
- 29 of 35 (83 percent) have taken 120 seconds or less;
- First team to begin season by scoring 66+ in first four games since data available in 1980;
- Starting quarterback Bryce Petty left the game against West Virginia after just one drive in the second half. At that point, the offense had already accumulated 674 yards, scoring touchdowns on nine of 10 possessions, for a 63-21 lead.
That’s scary stuff. Or at least it should be. However, I’m maintaining my faith in the team keeping this one close. Here’s why:
Baylor hasn’t faced a defense like K-State’s.
Stop laughing. Just stop. The Wildcats are trotting out a top-ten defense when they step onto the field, but look at who Baylor’s been beating up on. Wofford, Buffalo, LA-Monroe, and West Virginia? One of those teams has a winning record (Buffalo, at 3-2), but needed a five overtime victory over FCS Stony Brook. There’s just not a lot of talent there.
K-State is talented. Ty Zimmerman won’t be an All-American this year, but he should be. The linebacking corps is finally developing into the unit it should have been at the beginning of the year, Travis Britz and Ryan Mueller are two nasty defensive linemen, and Kip Daily may not be completely lockdown at cornerback but he’s a damn fine playmaker. And make no mistake about it – Oklahoma State is a good offense. The Wildcats turned the ball over five times and still held the Cowboys to 33 points. That includes two turnovers that gave the Poke the ball inside the red zone. In fact, K-State forced three-and-outs on six of seven second half possessions (two of which were field goals). That’s a defense that stepped up and locked down the team picked by many to win the conference.
K-State will control the clock.
I understand this stat doesn’t mean a lot in and of itself – Baylor scores quickly. The time of possession split was an even 30/30 with West Virginia, though the Bears won 73-42. However, assuming the defense does a better job of limiting big plays, K-State’s offense will seek to control the tempo. That’s the only way to win this game – wear down the Baylor defense while keeping the Wildcat defense fresh. Daniel Sams will start and see the majority of playing time. He has to – Jake Waters is still throwing interceptions. Sams will be a predominantly running threat, limiting passes (particularly if Tyler Lockett remains injured and Tramaine Thompson continues feeling the effects of having mono). Even if Baylor can score a touchdown every two minutes it has the ball, if K-State limits the Bears to just 4-5 possessions per half and with a couple punts plus a field goal, that score starts dropping real quick.
Deviation to the mean.
Baylor is the top passing team AND the second-best rushing team in the nation as measured by yards per game. You get one or the other, but not both. Sooner or later, you’re due for a dud. I called Baylor the second-best in the conference going into the season, with the potential to be the best. But that doesn’t mean they can sustain an average 70.5 points per game average.
Because I deserve it.
Yes, me. Personally. I’m still not over the obscenely poor officiating decision that upheld a fumble by Daniel Sams. Three days later, I’m still not over the multitude of penalties K-State racked up on Saturday (though the Wildcats deserved pretty much every one of those). It’s time John Hubert finally looks good – I’ve been suffering lackluster games from him all season. I was deprived of a single exciting return against the Cowboys – the team had -1.0 yards in punt returns (one return by Ty Zimmerman), and all seven kick returns were worthless. If I’m going to root for the squad with the best return game in the nation, I deserve to be entertained. It’s all about me, and I’ve been unduly deprived. It’s time I enjoy the product I watch. This is the weekend.
There’s no place like home.
Baylor is 4-0 this year, but 0-0 on the road. It’s time for Wildcat fans to demonstrate their loyalty despite the frustrating start to the season. I want to see Bill Snyder Family Stadium rocking harder than the cathedral bells overseen by Quasimodo. In 2011 an unstoppable quarterback – Robert Griffin – brought led an undefeated Baylor team into Manhattan. That K-State wasn’t as talented as the one that won the Big 12 in 2012, but the Wildcats still emerged victorious, 36-35. Yes, 35 points – my ceiling for this week’s game. David Ubben of Fox Sports makes an excellent observation in an article published Monday:
"Since beating a 5-7 Texas team in Austin back on Oct. 30, 2010, the Bears haven’t won a conference road game in regulation. Baylor is just 1-8 in its last nine Big 12 road games, and the only win came against 2-10 Kansas in 2011."
Maybe I’m just a dreamer. However, those dreams are not nightmares. Baylor’s offense is to be respected, but I refuse to fear it. Not on K-State’s Big 12 home opener. The Wildcats struggled at the beginning with three false starts on the first drive because the linemen couldn’t hear the snap count. Baylor expects to come in and run play after play with Bryce Petty calling plays at the line of scrimmage. Assuming the students uphold their responsibility and show up with noise, Baylor’s rhythm will be severely interrupted in a way that just doesn’t happen when teams get to play at home. And that may be the true key to limiting Baylor to half its season scoring average. So show up, get loud, and let’s help get this season back on track.