Bears and Jayhawks face off in Lawrence in matchup of winless Big 12 teams
Somebody has to win, right? The two winless teams in Big 12 play meet on Saturday. Baylor is coming off a thrashing against Texas, losing 38-7 at home. The Bears have lost 14 of their past 15 games dating back to last season. New head coach Matt Rhule is continuing to pick up the pieces left from the Art Briles mess and is dealing with a depleted roster.
Meantime, Kansas has dropped seven straight games since opening the season with a win over FCS opponent Southeast Missouri State. This was supposed to be the year KU started to show some improvement, however it’s been anything but. David Beaty is now 3-29 in his Kansas tenure, including a 1-22 record in Big 12 play.
Baylor at Kansas
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FSN
Spread: Baylor -8
Three Things to Watch
1. Who’s at quarterback?
Both teams have some issues at the quarterback position. Let’s start with Baylor, who spent time rotating Zach Smith and Charlie Brewer last week against Texas. Smith, the sophomore, went just 4-for-11 for 37 yards with one interception (pick-six). Brewer received more playing time, finishing 17-for-27 for 181 yards. Neither were overly effective and the battle between the two continues this week in practice.
Meantime, after giving junior college transfer Peyton Bender a very long leash, Kansas went with last year’s starter Carter Stanley last week against Kansas State. Stanely more than held his own, going 23-for-48 with 418 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception against a solid Kansas State secondary. The Jayhawks would be wise to stick with Stanley the rest of the season and see what exactly he can accomplish in Doug Meacham’s offense. He’s only a sophomore and could still be a part of the future at KU.
2. Who wants the ball?
Baylor and Kansas are, respectively, at the bottom of the Big 12 in turnover margin. Baylor is minus-eight on the season, while Kansas is minus-10. No one else is the conference is worse than minus-two in turnover margin. Neither team has done a particularly good job creating turnovers, as Baylor has only two interceptions all season, while Kansas has three. Meanwhile, both teams have thrown double-digit interceptions. Baylor has thrown 10, while Kansas has tossed 11. So who is going to make the big mistake or the big takeaway this weekend?
3. Kansas defensive line
All season we’ve been waiting for the Kansas defensive line to break out. The unit was supposed to be the strength of the team led by preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year Dorance Armstrong Jr. (above, right). Unfortunately, the Jayhawks got off to a slow start, but they have improved drastically. For the season, Kansas has 14 sacks in eight games, tied for second worst in the Big 12. But since conference play started, they’ve racked up 12 of those 14, which puts them at third in the conference.
If Armstrong, along with Daniel Wise, Joe Dineen and others can get in the backfield against a Baylor offensive line that lacks depth and skill, it could result in a KU upset. Baylor has given up 24 sacks on the season, which is, by far, the most in the Big 12.
It won’t be a pretty game, but it should be a hard-fought one, as both teams realize this is their best chance to pick up a Big 12 victory this season.
Baylor will likely try to establish the running game, as the Bears are healthy at the position with Terence Williams, JaMycal Hasty, Trestan Ebner and John Lovett. Last week, as a team, Baylor had just 31 rushing yards on 37 carries. That should be a little bit easier this week against a Kansas run defense giving up nearly 200 yards per game.
KU also could try and establish the running game, as Baylor has the worst run defense in the Big 12 (217 ypg), but it’s more likely that Doug Meacham gets back to his Air Raid with Carter Stanley to see if the quarterback can build on last week’s momentum from Kansas State.
The final scores don’t show it, but Kansas’ defense has played better in recent weeks. I actually think the Jayhawks found something in Stanley last week. Plus, they’re home and the Baylor offensive line is such a problem it will give the KU front line time to get to the quarterback, whoever it is for Baylor.
Prediction: Kansas 24, Baylor 21
— Written by Pete Mundo, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as well as owner and operator of HeartlandCollegeSports.com, a site for Big 12 fans. Mundo also is a sports anchor at CBS Sports Radio and can found on Twitter @PeteMundo. Follow Heartland College Sports on Twitter @Heartland_CS.