Baylor surprised a lot of people when they gave The Associated Press’s number three, the University of Oklahoma, quite a scare last weekend in Waco, Texas. This is, after all, a team that lost to Liberty to start the season. So what can K-State fans expect to see out of Baylor at this weekend’s game?
The Baylor Bears are a football team still recovering from allegations that their athletic department was covering up rape allegations. Even after former head coach Art Briles and former athletics director Ian McCaw were fired, the damages from the scandal are still being felt.
Current head coach Matt Rhule is in his first year at Baylor after leading Temple to an American Athletic Conference Championship in 2016. Rhule’s Baylor team is off to a 0-4 start this season.
K-State fans can expect Rhule’s squad to look a lot like Briles’ team on the field, although hopefully they will be more disciplined off the field. They are going to throw the ball a lot and play a decent defense.
Between sophomore Zach Smith and graduate transfer Anu Solomon from Arizona, they have already racked up 1,141 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. Wildcat fans can expect Smith to make the start for Baylor on Saturday.
Five of those 11 touchdowns have been on passes for more than 70 yards, and four of those were passes from Smith to receiver Chris Platt, who will likely be out this Saturday due to a knee injury. This will make receiver Denzel Mims the top target for Smith’s passes. Mims has 406 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season.
The K-State secondary defense will have to step up and shut down Baylor’s talented receiving corps, especially Mims, and make them try to run the ball if they are going to win the game.
“It is going to be a test,” senior linebacker Jayd Kirby said at K-State’s weekly football press conference Tuesday. “I do not think we have seen 50 passes in a game yet, so it is going to be something new.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Baylor has been doing a great job getting to the quarterback. They, along with Texas Christian University, have recorded a Big 12 high of 11 sacks through four games. However, in terms of total yards allowed, Baylor ranks dead last in the conference.
“They have a lot of movement and blitzes up front,” junior tight end Dayton Valentine said. “We have to be good with our eyes, hands and steps. We need to be able to create those lanes for [Alex] Barnes and [Justin] Silmon, and all those guys to get loose.”
Expect K-State senior quarterback Jesse Ertz and sophomore running back Alex Barnes to have a good day running the football. Baylor has the worst rushing defense in the country and have allowed a Big 12 high of 946 yards and eight touchdowns.
“In yesterday’s practice, we threw the ball well, but we also caught the ball well,” Snyder said. “We ran routes well. Our receivers looked quick.”
As far as play styles go, Baylor is going to run a “hurry up, no huddle” offense. They average 71.3 offensive plays per game.
Baylor is not going to move nearly as quick as it has in the past, though. Under Coach Briles in 2016, they had the fastest offense in the country, averaging 88.6 offensive plays per game.
Even without Platt, Baylor has a couple tall, athletic receivers — Mims and sophomore Pooh Stricklin — who will be used in third and long situations. Expect to be frustrated by them running to the first down marker and turning around for an easy, wide open pass. They also like the read option, but Smith is not much of a threat to keep the ball and beat you running it.
Rhule brought his defensive coordinator, Phil Snow, with him from Temple, meaning that K-State will be facing a new defensive scheme. They will likely be running a “3-4 defense” — three linemen and four linebackers, one of whom will mainly line up as a “rush-backer” in the defensive end position — but will have more variations on this base defense than they did under Phil Bennet.
They will roll a safety back into a deep zone and run a man defense under it. They will likely also put a “spy” on Ertz — a dedicated defender to stop him from scrambling — on short yardage plays. They will do a lot of late movement, which will give Ertz fits because he will try to call an audible late in the snap clock.
Oklahoma had a lot of very open receivers last week, so expect K-State to get similar opportunities over the air. K-State can also be successful running on third and long past Baylor’s rushers. Oklahoma’s big run plays came when Baylor either dropped too many into pass coverage or took too many players out of the play by rushing the quarterback.
prediction: K-State beats Baylor 38-24.