There is one word on Head Coach Art Briles and his Baylor Bear (5-0, 2-0) team's mind as they prepare for this weeks October 17th match up with West Virginia (3-2, 0-2) at home. That word is focus. Many may think the Bears are out for blood and revenge after last years miscue against the West Virginia Mountaineers and while that may be true this game can be seen as potential upset if the Bears are not careful.
"I expect us to be very focused, because of that (last years 41-27 loss to the Mountaineers)," said Baylor defensive line coach Chris Achuff. The coaches on the Bears staff are very adamant in their preparation for West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and his team.
That preparation will be key because this game is one that screams West Virginia Big 12 football. In games like this, the Mountaineers have all the motivation and walk into a stadium as the underdog approaching the mid point of the season.
The Mountaineers will need more than just history on their side to win this game.
This starts with field position. For the most part, rookie quarterback in Skyler Howard has had to start the majority of his initial drives the past two games pinned between his own goal line and the fifteen yard line. Winning the battle of field position will be huge. Howard has also had trouble with stars Eric Striker of Oklahoma and Emmanuel Ogbah of Oklahoma State coming off the edge, well this week he faces Shawn Oakman a 6-9, 275 pound defensive end who has already collected 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks after he declined the NFL draft last off-season. If he is within his own 20 yard line with that kind of pressure in a booming Baylor environment things could once again go the other teams way.
West Virginia must take advantage of the drives it has so whether it does or does not become a shootout they are sitting well. Running back Wendell Smallwood has been terrific this season and should see the majority of the carries while wide receiver Shelton Gibson must find a way past the very physical Xavien Howard at cornerback. The positive thing and nightmare for Baylor about this offense is that they are scoring with plays of 20 yards or more each game. This West Virginia offense may be raw but it is explosive. If the defense can bail them out long enough there may be a way to find some of that big play mentality.
1. Baylor features an offense that even though untested is averaging 725 yards per game behind new leader and quarterback Seth Russell. That could be detrimental for a West Virginia defense that has very little pass rush and only 10 sacks through 5 games. The secondary has not been the best either with mental errors, being down right out played and losing senior safety Karl Joseph to an ACL injury. It becomes a battle tested defense against a blistering offense.
2. Baylor's Shock Linwood is one of the best running backs in the country statistically speaking and his 9.6 yards a carry are hard to argue with. This offensive line not only protects quarterback Seth Russell well but they also protect their running back.
3. At wide receiver Corey Coleman already has 678 yards and 13 touchdowns and on tape he is just far more talented than his competition. West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley has proven why he is underrated at times this year but has came right back a series later to make us believe in that draft stock. It will be his toughest bout yet this year in Waco against Coleman and he cannot afford to lose.
West Virginia like in 2013 is too raw of an offense to win in the Big 12 week in and week out. They have the tools to win but without that veteran mental mindset from their biggest play makers they are limited. Seth Russell and Corey Coleman wont slowdown and definitely not at home with something to prove. The triple threat comes full circle when Linwood is thrown in there. They get a beaten fatigued, and broken West Virginia not playing for a playoff spot or even a Big 12 Title at this point. The game is in favor of Baylor on paper but this is West Virginia's game to win. The Mountaineers are where upsets happen and this team could very well not be broken and more motivated than ever to get back into the Big 12 fight especially for their fallen leader Karl Joseph. If mental mistakes and field position are corrected this team has a shot, after all they were a play or two away for the past two weeks. This one could go many ways.
These two teams average a combined 105 points per game when facing one another.
2012: WVU 70 - Baylor 63
2013: Baylor 73 - WVU 42
2014: WVU 41 - Baylor 27
Kickoff is set for Saturday at noon from McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas.