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West Virginia vs. Baylor: Preview and Prediction

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Baylor

Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming Big 12 match up in our West Virginia vs. Baylor preview and prediction.

Game info

When: Thursday October 25th @ 6:00 P.M. CT

Where: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV

TV: Fox Sports 1 (Justin Kutcher (pxp), Demarco Murray (analyst), Petros Papadakis (analyst))

Radio: Baylor/WVU IMG Network

Key Players

Baylor

WR Jalen Hurd

Hurd is everything Matt Rhule could’ve hoped he would be when the former Tennessee running back decided to transfer to Baylor. Hurd has been a team player because while he came to Waco to be a wide receiver, thinking about his longevity in the NFL, he has been willing to line up in the backfield when necessary. He has 47 catches for 622 yards and three touchdowns, along with 25 carries for 112 yards and three touchdowns. Hurd ranks fifth nationally in both 1st down receptions and receptions of 10+ yards.

DT James Lynch 

Lynch has become a bull on the Baylor defensive line. He’s in the Top 10 in the Big 12 in sacks with four and tackles for loss with seven. At 6’4”, 285, he’s become a force on the defensive line, which desperately needs even more help in the front seven. But if Lynch can get into the backfield and disrupt Will Grier, the Bears will have a shot in this one.

West Virginia

QB Will Grier 

Grier had one of the worst games of his career last time out against Iowa State when he completed just 11 of 15 passes for 100 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Grier is still third in the Big 12 in passing average per game with 289.5 per game, and his passing efficiency is still second in the conference. 

LB David Long

Long is the key to the West Virginia defense that ranks No. 1 in the Big 12 in scoring defense, No. 2 in opponents first-down defense, No. 3 in total and pass defense and No. 4 in rushing defense. Long ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 61 tackles, is second with 10.5 tackles for loss and also has three sacks on the season.

 

Key Storylines

Baylor

The Bears are going on the road in a hostile environment and will need its defense to perform like it did in the second half against the Longhorns when it held UT scoreless. Sure, part of that was because the Longhorns were using their back up quarterback Shane Buechele, but still, Baylor’s D was impressive. The Mountaineers offensive line was horrific against Iowa State, giving up seven sacks and nine tackles for loss. It’s up to defensive linemen Greg Roberts, Ira Lewis, the aforementioned James Lynch and BJ Thompson to try and get to Will Grier early.

Also, Baylor has to get the Mountaineers into third and long situations, because West Virginia has the best third-down conversion rate in the Big 12 at 50.0%. Amazingly, that’s still tops in the conference, despite going 1 for 10 against Iowa State.

Offensively, the Bears need to take advantage of West Virginia’s defensive struggles in the red zone, where they rank 9th in the Big 12 in red zone defense.

West Virginia

The Mountaineers have to get this offense back on track after the disastrous performance up in Ames. The offensive line needs to improve and it might be wise for Jake Spavital to try and get the ball out of Grier’s hands earlier with some passes in the flat to Simms, Sills, Simmons, Jennings and McKoy. Plus, the Mountaineers need to limit the penalties, as they currently rank second to last in the Big 12 Conference with 75.3 penalty yards per game.

Meantime, WVU has held its own, ranking in the middle of the pack in rushing and passing defense. Baylor’s offensive line is average, at best, and will give the Mountaineers a chance to make some noise in the backfield, since WVU is No. 5 nationally in tackles for loss, averaging 8.8 per game.

Prediction

West Virginia: 35, Baylor: 24

The Mountaineers have had two weeks to think about their awful performance against Iowa State and will come out firing against a leaky Baylor defense they match up pretty well against. Baylor can put points on the board, but West Virginia has too much fire power, will be at home at night and will also be able to get to Charlie Brewer on occasion. Baylor doesn’t have the defensive ability to do to West Virginia what Iowa State did. Plus, I’d like to think Jake Spavital learned a few lessons from that disaster. WVU bounces back to set up a big match up against Texas next week. 

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