Preview: Kansas State at Baylor

    Kansas State (9-2) at Baylor (10-1) Dec. 6, 7:45, ESPN Here’s The Deal: Oh, by the way, Kansas State will win at least a piece of the Big 12 championship

    December 4, 2014

    Kansas State (9-2) at Baylor (10-1) Dec. 6, 7:45, ESPN 

    Here’s The Deal: Oh, by the way, Kansas State will win at least a piece of the Big 12 championship with a win over Baylor. 

    Here’s the one big difference between Kansas State currently being No. 9 and TCU and Baylor fighting for a playoff spot – Auburn. Kansas State played Auburn, TCU played Minnesota, and Baylor played Buffalo. That’s not to say that it’s automatic that KSU would’ve beaten the Gophers or Bulls – okay, yeah on the Bulls – but it’s an afterthought in the Big 12 fight while Baylor has to not only win, but come up with something special. 

    The Bears have the head-to-head win over TCU, but the double-digit loss to West Virginia and the miserable non-conference schedule have been a killer, leaving then well on the outside at No. 6 and needing a minor miracle to move up into the top four. A blowout over the ninth-ranked team in the country might do just that. 

    TCU is certainly going to be shooting for style points against Iowa State, and Ohio State is going to do everything in its power to rip apart Wisconsin, but if the Buckeyes should happen to lose, and if Alabama and/or Oregon and/or Florida State ends up getting upset, there’s a chance Baylor can fly up the charts if it wins emphatically. 

    Margin of victory shouldn’t matter, but struggling against Texas Tech in a 48-46 win was a problem for Baylor – even though TCU’s struggle with Kansas didn’t. However, with blowouts over Oklahoma and Texas on the resume, along with the win over TCU, this could be an interesting debate Saturday night. 

    But Kansas State is pretty good, too. 

    The Wildcats haven’t been as dominant on a regular basis as TCU and Baylor, but that’s not really its nature. It got the win at Oklahoma, it got the win at West Virginia, and it shut out Texas. But beating Baylor and being able to print 2014 Big 12 Champion t-shirts is all that matters at this point. 

    And ruining Baylor’s dream might be fun, too. 

    Why Kansas State Might Win: Baylor’s defense hasn’t received enough credit for the great run this year, but it went bye-bye against Texas Tech, allowing 609 passing yards and six touchdowns. Kansas State, on the flip side, doesn’t get enough credit for its passing attack, but it’s rocking and rolling over the last three games with 376 yards against TCU, 400 against West Virginia and 311 against Kansas. Jake Waters has been the Big 12’s hottest quarterback over the last few weeks, and if he’s given enough time, he might have a massive day against the Bear secondary. 

    The other big key could be one or two big mistakes here or there – it might come down to penalties. Losing five or ten yards here or there doesn’t matter a lick to the No. 1 offense in the country, but it might when it has to go against a defense like Kansas State’s. Baylor is good for around eight penalties a game, while Kansas State has been nailed just 48 times all year. As always, the Wildcats should own the time of possession, too. 

    Why Baylor Might Win: Pure firepower. Kansas State has the ability and talent to keep up, and it certainly has the defense to keep the Bear running game in check, but this is a Baylor offense that’s hunt up 49 points or more in each of the last four games – including 48 against Oklahoma – and has scored 45 or more in every game but the 28-7 win over Texas and 41-27 loss to West Virginia. Again, this isn’t just about beating Kansas State, it’s about looking great doing it. The Wildcats might have a good overall pass defense, coming up with six interceptions over the last four games, but they gave up 310 yards to West Virginia and, outside of the win over TCU, got thrown on by most of the teams that can throw. 

    The Bear offensive line has been excellent – for the most part – in pass protection this year, allowing just 17 sacks and a mere 47 tackles for loss. Kansas State has a decent pass rush, but Ryan Mueller hasn’t cranked it up like he did last year with just 4.5 sacks compared to the 11.5 from 2013. The only way to slow down the Baylor machine is go get to it before it gets into a groove, or come up with a launching hit a half-beat too late like Texas Tech came up with last week meaning … 

    Who To Watch Out For: All eyes are on Bryce Petty’s head. He played in the SMU game despite a broken bone in his back, and now he’s trying to come back from a concussion after suffering a wicked blow that knocked him out in the Red Raider win. Seth Russell has just enough experience to be okay if he has to go, but he’s not Petty. He might not be cranking out the big passing yards like he did last year, and he’s been inconsistent, but he’s also the one who makes the engine go. 

    Meanwhile, while Waters has been tremendous, he’s being helped by the hottest receiver this side of Amari Cooper. Tyler Lockett has caught 30 passes over the last three games with over 100 yards in each, and hit the mark in four of the last five and five of the last seven games. The All-America candidate missed last year’s loss to Baylor, and caught just two passes for 23 yards in 2012’s loss. Baylor has to key on him from the start. 

    What’s Going To Happen: Baylor will be impressive, and it’ll come up with the strong win, but it won’t be enough. Kansas State will be able to keep up the pace for a while, and the defense will come up with its share of stops to keep it from getting out of hand. Will it be enough for the playoff committee? Only if there are a few big losses up top. 

    Prediction: Baylor 38 … Kansas State 27 
    Line: Baylor -8 o/u: 67 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: The Interview – 1: CMA Country Christmas … 5


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