The no. 12 Baylor Bears have the distinct honor of hosting a game on Halloween night as they welcome the West Virginia Mountaineers to town. Kickoff is at 8:00 EST on Thursday, October 31 at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
The week has opened with Baylor favored 17.5 points at home. The over/under for the contest is set at 56 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
At 7-0, Baylor is the only undefeated team left in the Big 12. After beginning the season unranked and a complete afterthought on the national stage, the Bears have climbed their way up to no. 12 in the polls. If the Bears can take care of business on Thursday and remain unbeaten, it’ll be interesting to see where the College Football Playoff committee places them in the initial rankings next Tuesday.
Baylor hasn’t exactly overwhelmed us with impressive wins this season. But they’re 4-0 in conference play with solid wins over the likes of Iowa State, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State. Of course, that means they still have to play Oklahoma, as well as in-state rivals TCU and Texas over the final month of the season. However, every other team in the Big 12 outside of Oklahoma has at least two league losses, so the Bears will be guaranteed a spot in the conference title game with one or fewer losses the rest of the way.
As for the Mountaineers, their bowl hopes have taken a serious hit with three straight losses. In fairness, those losses have come against Texas, Iowa State, and Oklahoma. However, they’ve been out-scored 90-28 over their last two games and aren’t far from being at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.
At 3-4, West Virginia is hoping to find three wins in their final five games and get to a bowl game in Neal Brown’s first season in Morgantown. The good news is that some of their more difficult Big 12 games are behind them. But the Mountaineers still have to play three of their final five games on the road, including two against ranked teams.
The silver lining is that West Virginia holds a three-game winning streak over Baylor. The Mountaineers have taken five of their seven head-to-head meetings with the Bears since joining the Big 12. However, West Virginia has just one win in Waco in three tries, and that was a narrow 38-36 win two years ago against a Baylor team that went 1-11.
Matt Rhule and the Bears have to remember the 58-14 shellacking they took in Morgantown last year and have redemption on their mind for Thursday’s Halloween showdown. Despite most of their seven wins being too close for comfort, I think Baylor is ready for a proper blowout. More importantly, West Virginia is the perfect opponent to help make that happen. I’ll eat the points and lean toward the Bears beating the Mountaineers by 20-plus points on Halloween.
I’ll admit to being skeptical at times, but I’m starting to come around on Baylor’s offense. The backfield tandem of John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty might be the best in the Big 12 outside of Oklahoma. Both are averaging over six yards per carry and have complementary skill sets. Hasty, in particular, has emerged as a home run threat. It’s also worth noting that quarterback Charlie Brewer has six rushing touchdowns on the season, making him a threat to score near the goal line as well.
As a passer, Brewer is starting to show that he could be more than a game manager. He’s thrown for over 300 yards in three of Baylor’s four Big 12 games this season. In fairness, he had a rough afternoon against Texas Tech a few weeks ago, throwing three interceptions. But he also made some big throws in that game to help the Bears win in double-overtime.
More importantly, I think Brewer is capable of doing damage against the West Virginia defense. The Mountaineers are giving up 39 points per game in conference play. To be fair, Baylor doesn’t have the same offensive prowess as Oklahoma, who put up 52 points against the Mountaineers in their last game. But the Baylor offense is able to stay balanced and will keep the WVU defense honest with their running game. Brewer is also capable of taking shots deep and has a pair of receivers in Denzel Mims and Tyquan Thornton who can make that happen.
Meanwhile, the West Virginia offense has been a little sluggish recently, scoring just 14 points in each of their past two games. As a team, the Mountaineers are gaining less than three yards per carry running the ball, even though they’ve only allowed 11 sacks in seven games. Quarterback Austin Kendall is capable of pushing the ball down the field. But he could struggle against a solid Baylor defense, especially if the Mountaineers fall behind and become one-dimensional on offense.
Recent history suggests that these two teams will put plenty of points on the board. However, I think West Virginia will eventually struggle to match the Baylor offense. The Mountaineers lack a reliable running game, which will make them too predictable for the Baylor defense. At home, the Bears should be able to get the crowd behind them and put consistent pressure on Kendall. Meanwhile, West Virginia is yet to prove that they can win with defense, which is why I think the Bears will ultimately pull away and cover the spread.