Are we going to see the Bears team that started 0-and-3 and looked like a shell of its former self for those three games? Or the one that took No. 3 Oklahoma to the limit in a scintillating 49-41 loss on Saturday?
And what about the Wildcats? Do we see the team that began the season 2-0, dominating FCS opponent Central Arkansas and Charlotte by a combined score of 110-26? Or do we see the Purple Cats that were held to seven measly points in a 14-7 loss at Vanderbilt? (And we all know what happened to that Vanderbilt team vs. Alabama last weekend.)
This will be an interesting game in Manhattan. The Cats took last weekend off and had to be freaking out watching the Bears go toe-to-toe and end zone-to-end zone with the No. 3-ranked Sooners. It may have been the wake-up call coach Bill Snyder and his troops needed. Let’s see what transpires at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium this Saturday in this key Big 12 matchup.
Baylor at Kansas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Kansas State -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Get back to “Matt Rhule-style” football.
The new Baylor coach said before last week’s Big 12 opener vs. Oklahoma that he wanted to get his running game going again. His philosophy back in his Temple days was to run the ball 50 times a game. Against the Sooners, his troops fell behind early and had to spend the rest of the afternoon passing the ball just to keep up. Watch to see if BU establishes that run-first mentality vs. the Cats. Terence Williams, who ran for 1,048 yards last year, played his first game of the year vs. the Sooners but got only 11 carries. Look for him and John Lovett to try to set the pace from the get-go in this one.
2. Trying to contain Ertz
It’s not a stretch to say that Kansas State’s Jesse Ertz is THE offense for the Cats. The senior signal-caller has accounted for 587 of their 598 passing yards and 237 of their 691 rushing yards, including a team-high 44 carries. Ertz has a tendency to drop back and immediately tuck-and-run without letting the receivers complete their patterns. Keeping a “spy” on him in this game might be a good idea for the Bears. Ranked 121st nationally, the Baylor defense has been lit up a good bit this year, but the unit is starting to come together. In fact, the Bears lead the Big 12 with 11 sacks and are second in the Big 12 with eight tackles for a loss per game. Ertz is solid but not spectacular in the passing game, so keeping him in third-and-long situations will be key.
3. It still comes down to defense
The Wildcats led the Big 12 in total defense last season and currently sit at 20th nationally, giving up just 286 yards per game. Two weeks ago they faced off with Vanderbilt's advanced skill players and held the Commodores to 14 points. If not for a wrongly called fumble return that was taken off the board against Vanderbilt, the Cats would be 3-0 right now. All apologies to Oklahoma, but the Power Cats may very well be the toughest defense BU will face all season until the TCU game on Thanksgiving weekend. Advantage Wildcats.
You know what they say about encountering a hungry bear, right? Well these Baylor Bears are starving. The Green and Gold are riding a 10-game regular-season losing streak that they are dying to end. Their season took a decided turn in that Oklahoma game last week as the offense got ratcheted up exponentially. And even though the Bears are going to try to establish that running game, don’t forget about those Maseratis they have in the receiver corps in Chris Platt and Denzel Mims. If Zach Smith can hit them in the seams against this strong KSU defense, it could open things up.
Eventually, Jesse Ertz and the Wildcats will try to impose their ball-control scheme and should be able to keep the Bears offense off the field. But buyer beware: This Baylor team is a boiling pot that will be tough to keep a top on. Something tells me this will be a K-State win, albeit by a slim margin.
Prediction: Kansas State 45, Baylor 35
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.