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West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Baylor Bears Preview and Prediction

Seth Russell

Seth Russell

Baylor is arguably the best team in the nation. The Bears are amassing 700 total yards per game on a regular basis and Seth Russell is having a career year. The last time this team lost a regular season game was over a year ago in Morgantown, West Virginia.

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Speaking of Morgantown, the Mountaineers come limping into this game as a significant underdog after losing two straight, including at home last week to Oklahoma State, a game in which they were favored.

Baylor head coach Art Briles has repeatedly stated this is not a “revenge” game but one has to wonder if the Bears will do everything they can to convince the Mountaineers they shouldn’t have traveled to Waco.

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West Virginia at Baylor


Kickoff: noon ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Baylor -21.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Skyler Howard
Howard has taken much of the blame for the Mountaineers' two-game losing streak. After starting the season 58-for-84 passing for 916 yards with 10 touchdowns and only one interception, he has struggled in Big 12 play going 35-for-67 for 361 yards, two touchdowns and four picks.

Baylor has shown deficiencies in its pass defense. Howard has a chance to redeem himself this weekend against the Bears if the offensive line can give him time in the pocket.

2. Baylor Offense
An off game for the Baylor's offense is anything less than 700 total yards. The Bears are also the highest scoring offense in the nation, averaging 64.2 points per game. The gap between Baylor and the No. 2 team (Texas Tech) is 12 points per game.

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Seth Russell leads the nation in both passing efficiency as well as points responsible for with 156. The Mountaineer defense will be the best these Bears have faced this season. And although West Virginia’s secondary has given up some big plays the defenseive backs hit hard and swarm to the ball.

It is still unknown if this Bears offense can be tamed. But the last team to do it was West Virginia last season, blitzing 47 times en route to handing Baylor its only regular season loss.

Will the Mountaineers and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson stick with what works and pressure Russell all game? It is definitely a gamble to try it two times in a row.

3. Mountaineers' Offensive Line

West Virginia will have to deal with a defensive front for Baylor that is simply scary. Shawn Oakman will be lining up against offensive tackle Yodney Cajuste, a first-year starter for the Mountaineers.

Taylor Young, the Bears' weak-side linebacker, also is someone to keep an eye on. Expect Oakman to crash inside to allow Young the outside pass rush.

West Virginia has struggled at times to give Howard enough time in the pocket. That lack of time has led to bad decisions. The Mountaineers will have to protect Howard as well as be physical enough to establish a run game. Wendell Smallwood is averaging 6.6 yards per carry this season. He will need to be a large presence in order for the Mountaineers to stay on the field when they have the ball.


Final Analysis

While the Bears' defense has shown tendencies to allow opposing teams to move the ball their offense simply outscores everyone, by a lot.

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The Mountaineers will have to execute to near-perfection to have a chance in this game. Howard will have to put the past behind him and the Mountaineers' offensive line will have to find a way to dominate.

Russell has a multitude of weapons at his disposal and knows how to use every one of them, including Corey Coleman, who has 31 receptions on the season for 678 yards and 13 touchdowns, yes 13.

The Mountaineers will show signs of life like they have in every game this season, but without showing that for four quarters they will fall short in the end.

Prediction: Baylor 45, West Virginia 28

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.