Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming Big 12 game in Waco in our Baylor vs. West Virginia preview and prediction.
Date: October 21st, 2017 | 7:00 p.m. CT | McLane Stadium
TV: FS1 or FS2 | Brian Custer (play-by-play), Ben Leber (analyst)
Radio: IMG Mountaineers Sports Network | Tony Caridi (play-by-Play), Dwight Wallace (analyst), Jed Drenning (sideline)
Radio: Baylor IMG Sports Network | John Morris (play-by-play), J.J. Joe (analyst), Ricky Thompson (sideline)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 132 XM 199
Fun fact: Baylor and the West Virginia had never met prior to WVU joining the Big 12 Conference in 2012. Since then, West Virginia has won three of the five meetings. The home team has been victorious all five times with the Bears picking up victories in Waco in 2013 (73-42) and 2015 (62-38).
West Virginia Mountaineers
Mike Daniels Jr., cornerback
To avoid the upset, the Mountaineers can’t let Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims get behind the defense for big plays. That’s up to the secondary, and likely Daniels, who will be covering Mims. Daniels has 4 pass breakups and one interception, ranking 11th in the Big 12 in passes defended on the season.
Justin Crawford, running back
Crawford is quietly having as good a season as many of us expected. He’s second in the Big 12 conference with 101.5 rushing yards per game, along with 6.5 yards per carry. He’s been able to find the end zone as well, scoring 42 points, which ranks third in the conference. Now he gets a Baylor rushing defense that is the Big 12’s worst, by a mile.
Terrance Williams, running back
Williams got back on track last week with 10 carries for 95 yards. Hopefully he can continue that momentum this week for the Bears, who will need it. John Lovett still got one more carry than Williams last week against Oklahoma State, but look for Williams to carry more of the load as the season progresses.
Clay Johnston, linebacker
Johnston ranks third in the Big 12 with 9 tackles for loss, and is 11th in the Big 12 in total tackles with 45. One of the best ways to slow down the WVU attack is to get in the back field and stop Justin Crawford. That is what Johnston will be in charge of on Saturday.
Who’s stopping the run?
This game pits the two worst rushing defense in the Big 12 against each other. West Virginia ranks 9th in the conference allowing 211 rushing yards per game, while the Baylor Bears are, by far, the worst in the conference, giving up 241 rushing yards per game. Freshman John Lovett still led the Bears in carries last week, but I expect to see Terrance Williams, who averaged 9.5 yards per carry against Oklahoma State, to take over (even though he’s not technically listed on the two deep). Meantime, Justin Crawford and the Mountaineers could not get their run game going last week against Texas Tech, with only a combined 82 rushing yards between Crawford and Kennedy McKoy. But they will have more than ample opportunities this week against BU.
Will Grier vs. Baylor secondary
Baylor gave up 459 passing yards to Mason Rudolph last week. Now they have to go up against Will Grier, who has been nearly as good as Rudolph. Look at these numbers: Will Grier is ranked No. 1 nationally in passing touchdowns, No. 2 in points responsible for, No. 4 in total offense, No. 6 in passing yards per game, No. 8 in passing efficiency, No. 9 in completions per game, No. 12 in yards per pass attempt and No. 21 in completion percentage and passing yards per completion. Baylor has the second worst pass defense efficiency in the Big 12. This could end up being a long day for a young secondary in Waco.
Baylor taking advantage of opportunities
The Bears’ red zone offense ranks 8th in the Big 12 conference with a success rate of 82.4%. But where they are dead last, by a wide margin, is in touchdowns in the red zone with seven. By comparison, Kansas has scored 13 touchdowns once inside the red zone. To pull off the upset on homecoming weekend, Baylor needs to figure out a way to punch it in when they get inside WVU’s 20-yard line. It won’t be easy against a Mountaineers’ defense that is 3rd in the Big 12 in red zone defense.
West Virginia 44, Baylor 24
The Bears are still so young. Baylor has played 17 true freshmen over the first six weeks, a total that ranks fourth nationally, and have started nine true freshmen at least once in 2017, second most in FBS. The Bears have played much better at home, and it is homecoming weekend, so maybe there is a little extra spark. But this is a veteran West Virginia team that still has its eyes set on a potential Big 12 championship game. Will Grier is going to have a big night in Waco as the Mountaineers roll to victory and the Bears fall to 0-7 (but continue to get important reps for young players that will pay off in a big way in 2018/2019).