But before we dive into the whys and hows, a word of warning here: West Virginia is mad. The Mountaineers are breathing fire out of their nostrils after their last game, getting knocked from the ranks of the unbeatens by losing 30-14 at Iowa State. And now they’ve had to sit around and stew about it for an extra week due to last week’s bye. So we’re going to see how mature of a team the Mountaineers are after having being humbled the last time out. Their motivation should be off the charts in this one.
Baylor is a program in recovery after finishing last year at 1-11. Their 4-3 start included a tough 23-17 loss to No. 7 Texas two weeks ago. That means that these ravenous Bears still need just two more wins to reach one of their season goals of becoming bowl eligible. But they will be underdogs from here on out. Another of their team goals could be beating a top-15 team. Don’t count out the possibility of that happening here.
Baylor at West Virginia
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: West Virginia -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Getting back to basics
The Mountaineers just looked frazzled and chaotic in the loss to Iowa State, as Will Grier threw for just 100 yards and the offense only had possession for 22 minutes. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital talked about getting back to what they do best and getting everybody back on the same page. This means by getting protection from the O-line and getting separation in the routes from the receivers. Look for David Sills, Gary Jennings and Marcus Simms, who have combined for 90 catches and 15 TDs, to be called on a little bit more this week as the back seven of the Bears will not be quite as formidable as the Cyclones were. During the bye week the coaches challenged the ’Neers to amp up their game. This will be a good chance to get that bitter taste out of their mouths.
2. Mountaineers look for revenge against Charlie Brewer
Last year, the then-freshman Baylor quarterback went wild on the Mountaineers defense, coming off the bench in the fourth quarter and rallying the Bears from a 38-13 deficit to a heart-skipping 38-36 loss. He has a knack of scrambling around and extending plays as he demonstrated in that game a year ago where a missed two-point conversion cost them the W. Look for WVU to mix up the blitz packages this week to try to not let Brewer get comfortable. The bottom line is that when the Mountaineers aren’t missing tackles (32 missed tackles vs. Iowa State), they are the best defense in the Big 12, holding the opposition to 20.5 points per game.
3. Keep an eye on the first quarter
Watch out for the fast start from the Mountaineers in this game. Mr. Grier and Co. like to jump out on opponents fast and turn their games into boat races. Notoriously hot starting, the Mountaineers are outscoring their opponents 73-27 in the first frame of games. And on the other side of the ball, the last three times the Bears have fallen behind at the end of the first quarter, they’ve lost to Duke, Oklahoma and Kansas State.
Despite the loss to Iowa State the Mountaineers still maintain control of their fate. After this weekend they will get their shot at Texas, who is now in first place in the Big 12. With wins in the next two weeks the Mountaineers will remain at the forefront of the chase for one of the spots in the conference championship game as we head toward crunch time.
Oddly, these teams have many similarities statistically. Scoring-wise WVU posts 37 points per game, while Baylor scores 33. WVU passes for 321 yard per game, Baylor throws it for 313. WVU convert 50 percent of its third downs, Baylor converts at a 48 percent clip. WVU commits 7.8 penalties a game, Baylor commits 7.3. And finally, WVU is a minus-two in turnovers (11 lost, nine gained) and Baylor also is at minus-two (eight lost, six gained).
Don’t forget about BU threats like Tennessee transfer Jalen Hurd (47 catches, 622 yards) and Denzel Mims (35, 529) who can cause all kinds of matchup problems in the Mountaineer secondary.
But the difference will be the defense. Baylor’s defense will be much more manageable for Will Grier and his band of skill position weapons to pile up some points as the Bears relent more than 400 yards per game to their opponents. That’s an ominous sign for the boys from Waco.
Prediction: West Virginia 34, Baylor 27
— 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.