The West Virginia Mountaineers (3-2, 0-2) have the unenviable task of facing the #2 Baylor Bears (5-0, 2-0) in Big 12 Conference play Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers have won two of the last three meetings, including a 41-27 win at home as an 8.5 point underdog on October 18, 2014 in the most recent meeting between the schools.
West Virginia is coming off their second straight defeat as they dropped a 33-26 overtime decision at home to #21 Oklahoma State. Baylor cruised to an easy 66-7 win over Kansas in a game that will be remembered for LaQuan McGowan catching an 18 yard touchdown pass; the 6’8, 410 pound tight end rolled past the Kansas defense. The game kicks off from McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas at 12:00 pm ET and will be televised on FOX. Baylor is currently a 21 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 75 points.
West Virginia rallied from a 17-2 halftime deficit to force overtime but ran out of steam to drop their second straight. The Mountaineers outgained the Cowboys 444-362 in the game but turned the ball over four times to blunt three takeaways. West Virginia gave up a scoop six for a touchdown early in the game while recording a safety of their own. The Mountaineers racked up 26 first downs while limiting Oklahoma State to 19 but they couldn’t make plays when they needed to in the contest.
The Mountaineers are a prolific offense as they are averaging 266 yards (30th in the nation) through the air and 222.6 yards (19th in the nation) on the ground this season. West Virginia averages 36 points per game while they are 34th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 20 points per contest. Skyler Howard has connected on 93 of 151 passes for 1,277 yards with 11 touchdowns and five picks while averaging 8.46 yards per pass attempt; he’s added 149 yards and two scores on the ground. Wendell Smallwood leads the Mountaineers on the ground with 89 carries for 589 yards and five touchdowns while Rushel Shell (73 carries, 266 yards, 3 TD) is the second back in the system. Shelton Gibson is the team’s leading receiver with 20 grabs for 448 yards and five touchdowns; Jovon Durante (18 receptions, 264 yards, 3 TD) and Daikiel Shorts (17 catches, 224 yards, TD) are good secondary targets while Smallwood has 16 receptions out of the backfield. Josh Lambert has hit all 22 extra points and 8 of 11 field goals; two of his three misses are from beyond 50 yards.
Baylor put up another typical offensive output as they rolled up 644 yards while limiting Kansas to 227 yards in the contest. The Bears forced three Kansas turnovers in the game while only committing one of their own; Baylor returned a fumble for a score. The quick strike Baylor offense continued to put points on the board in a hurry as none of those nine scoring drives took longer than 2:16. When you score 66 points while holding the ball for only 24:15, there’s not much you can question offensively.
There are few offenses that can keep up with Baylor, which is 8th in the nation in passing offense (367.4 yards per game) and 2nd in rushing (357.6 yards); they are tops in the nation in scoring offense with 64 points per game. Seth Russell is the starter at quarterback and has hit 83 of 130 passes for 1,527 yards with 22 touchdowns and five picks; he averages 11.75 yards per pass attempt while adding 178 yards and four scores on the ground. The run game averages 7.4 yards per carry with Shock Linwood leading the team with 75 carries for 719 yards and seven scores. Terence Williams contributes 55 carries for 391 yards and a score while Johnny Jefferson has 50 carries for 353 yards and four scores of his own. Corey Coleman leads the team with 31 receptions for 678 yards and 13 touchdowns; Jay Lee (18 receptions, 405 yards, 4 TD) and KD Cannon (13 receptions, 232 yards, 3 TD) provide a trio of top receiving threats for Russell or Jarrett Stidham (22 of 26, 310 yards, 4 TD) to throw to.
Baylor is 7-1 ATS in their last eight after picking up at least 450 yards, 7-1 ATS in their last eight after giving up less than 275 yards, 21-5 ATS in their last 26 after giving up less than 100 yards on the ground, 25-6 ATS in their last 31 at home, 4-1 ATS in their last five against teams with a winning record and 4-1 ATS in their last five on grass. West Virginia is 1-4 ATS in their last five after a straight up loss, 1-4 ATS in their last five conference games, 2-9 ATS in their last 11 in October and 1-5 ATS in their last six against teams with a winning record.
The Mountaineers have turned the ball over nine times in their last two losses and they can ill afford to turn the ball over against Baylor. The Bears have a high octane offense to work with and will score in a hurry. West Virginia will try to hang in but they won’t be able to match scores with the Bears; look for Bears to send the Mountaineers to their third straight loss.