Match-Up Preview: West Virginia-Baylor

Match-Ups & Unit Battles As WVU Battles Baylor



Match-Up Preview
West Virginia vs Baylor
West Virginia rushing offense vs. Baylor run defense
It’s hard to ignore the fact that the Bears have the worst defense against the run in the Big 12, as they gave up average of 234.2 yards per game through the five first outings. Four of those first five foes rushed for at least 220 on the Bears, as only FCS Liberty (138 yards) was held below that mark. Justin Crawford (11.4 ypg) has led a consistent WVU rushing attack. The senior running back is just the sixth Mountaineer to reach 100 yards in five straight games.
Advantage: West Virginia

West Virginia passing offense vs. Baylor pass defense
The Bears’ defense is bad against the run, but it’s not all that great at stopping the pass either. Though the Bears are in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 statistically against the pass (237.6 ypg), most of that was because foes ran so well, they didn’t have to throw. Through five games, Baylor had faced the second fewest passing attempts, but its yards per attempt average (7.9) was the second worst in the league. If Liberty can hit BU for 447 passing yards, what can Will Grier and WVU (364 ypg) do?
Advantage: West Virginia
Baylor rushing offense vs. West Virginia run defense
In past years, the Bears had an underappreciated running attack, leading the Big 12 in rushing in four of the past five seasons. But this year that ground game is just underperforming. After running for 254 yards in its opener against Liberty, BU averaged 84.5 yards on the ground in its next four games. WVU’s defense has admittedly had problems against running attacks this year, but Baylor is one ground game the Mountaineers should be able to handle.
Advantage: West Virginia

Baylor passing offense vs. West Virginia pass defense
Baylor’s offense doesn’t have too many bright spots, but one of the few has been QB Zach Smith. Pressed into service last year as a true freshman because of injuries, Smith has gotten better as the season has gone along. Though his passing average of 206.6 ypg won’t wow people, he did throw for 463 yards and four TDs in a hard-luck loss to Oklahoma. WVU’s pass D hasn’t been awful (227.2 ypg). Inconsistent would be the best description.
Advantage: Even

Baylor special teams vs. West Virginia special teams
The two clubs are opposites in the return game, as WVU is the Big 12’s best at KO returns (26.8) but the worst at punt returns (3.0). Baylor is on the other end – bad on kickoff returns (13.9) but good on punt returns (12.8). BU has been solid kicking field goals (8-10) while WVU has been shaky there (3-6).
Advantage: Baylor
With a new coach and a lot of new, young players (14 of 22 starters are freshmen or sophomores), the Bears are learning on the job, and things haven’t gone well with five early losses. Baylor’s confidence has to be shaken, though it’s still showing effort. WVU will be trying to buck a trend and become the first road team to win a game in this series, which has been played annually since 2012.
Advantage: Even
Other than having lost in its only two previous trips to Waco, there isn’t an area with which WVU should be greatly concerned. BU has the worst offense in the Big 12 and the second worst defense. That’s a bad combo. Still, the Bears show just enough fight to worry a Mountaineer club that may not be perfect, but is clearly better than Baylor.
Predicted Score: West Virginia-39 Baylor-24