My buddy Andy put it extremely well in our text thread this week when he said that if we come out flat at home on 10 days rest in a game that we absolutely have to win against a beatable football team, there are some mothers who are going to be very disappointed in the way their sons are behaving in public. Seriously, just win. I can't eat another post-game "we had a good plan, just didn't execute, credit to them they were more physical" word salad. Just win.
Date: October 13th, 2022
Kickoff: 7:00PM EST
Where: Mountaineer Field at Mylan Puskar Stadium - Morgantown, WV
Tickets: General Public
Online Streaming: FoxSports app with a valid cable subscription
Radio Announcers: Tony Caridi (PBP), Dwight Wallace (analyst), and Jed Drenning (sideline)
Reminder: It is against site policy to post links to illegal streams in the comments.
Spread: WVU +4.5 on FanDuel (-114)
ML: WVU +134, Baylor -162
Over/Under: 54.5 over -112/under -108
Hard to argue with us being home dogs at this point. Hopefully that's ample motivation for the lads to come out with a sense of urgency.
Partly cloudy - 56 degrees at kickoff - Wind 5 mph
Outstanding foresight by the athletic department to keep the lots closed until the weather has moved out of the area.
Where are they from? Waco, TX. Dry campus. Gross.
All-time Series: 6-4. We've gone back and forth with the Bears over our 10 years in the Big 12, with the lone road win coming courtesy of a stand on a 2-point conversion following a 4th quarter Baylor rally in Waco. It should be noted that Baylor has never won in Morgantown.
The Last Time We Played: Baylor 45-20 West Virginia. Last year's ass whipping in Waco was probably the second most thorough we received aside from Oklahoma State. The Bears stepped on the gas early with a Tyquan Thornton house call and we just had no answers. Not a fun game to watch.
Head coach: Dave Aranda (3rd season, 17-11). Aranda seems like a super chill guy and a great coach. It's a shame that a guy like that ended up at a school like Baylor.
2022 record: 3-2. The Bears have beaten Albany, Texas State, and Iowa State, and lost to BYU and Oklahoma State. Basically the difference between us and them is that we played Texas and they played Texas State.
NUMBERS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU
60.8% - The percentage of 1st down snaps where Baylor runs the ball. Establishing their outside zone game is central setting up their play-action bootleg stuff. If they’re able to run the ball on us effectively it could be a long night.
33.3% - The percentage of Baylor’s pass plays that utilize play action. See above. That number is only the 5th highest in the Big 12 but is top 25 among P5 quarterbacks. Shapen has actually been more efficient on plays that don’t involve play action, but he’s been much more explosive when they do.
3 - West Virginia’s offensive rank in beta_rank’s negative drives metric. Basically, how good is a team at avoiding negative plays/drives, where a negative drive is defined as one that averages fewer than 3.3 yards per play or ends in a turnover.
103 - Baylor’s defensive rank in beta_rank’s negative drives metric. I’d like to think this means we have a good chance of staying on schedule, moving the football, and creating scoring opportunities on Thursday.
3.65 - Points allowed per Eckel by the Bears defense, good for 48th nationally. They'll let you move it on them but tend to stiffen up once you get inside their 40.
23 - Explosive plays allowed by Baylor in 342 defensive snaps. 6.7%. That's, uh, stingy.
13 - Passes defended by the Mountaineer defense this year. That’s just 2.6 forced incompletions per game and ranks 125th out of 131 FBS teams. I knew the secondary had been bad but goddamn.
KEYS TO THE GAME
WHEN BAYLOR HAS THE BALL - WIN ON EARLY DOWN RUNNING PLAYS
I don’t think that Baylor has the passing game weapons to just come out and hurt us throwing the way that Texas did. Our secondary is bad, but I’m pretty sure that's true. However, they definitely have the weapons to hurt us if they're running for 5 yards per carry and hammering us in the play action game. These dudes love to take deep shots off of their outside zone game, and through 5 weeks they actually have the top two receivers in the Big 12 in terms of yards per catch in Monaray Baldwin (22.0) and Gavin Holmes (21.8). The easiest way to prevent those shot plays is to stop the run on early downs and prevent the 2nd and 3rd and medium situations that they're most effective in. Stop the run and we stop Baylor.
WHEN WE HAVE THE BALL - THROW IT ON EARLY DOWNS, STAY ON SCHEDJ
The Bears are extremely stingy against first down runs and do an amazing job of preventing explosive plays. However, they've also struggled to create negative plays and have allowed quality possessions (i.e. first downs inside their own 40) on 55% of the drives they've faced. You can move the ball on this team if you stay patient and take what they give you.
Fortunately for us, that's something that Graham Harrell's offense is both designed to do and very successful at. The Mountaineer offense is among the best in the country in negative play avoidance (see beta_rank number above) and has created quality possessions on an impressive 69% of its drives, which ranks 11th nationally. We can dink and dunk with the best of them, and I think doing that stuff on early downs and staying on schedule is the key to creating scoring opportunities for ourselves.
From there, it's a matter of converting those opportunities into touchdowns. Baylor has been good at preventing points in those situations so far this year and has a pair of big corners who will likely discourage the fade routes that we've leaned on, so we'll have to get creative about how we attack them when the field shrinks. I'd love to see us use some presnap motion to get Bryce and KP matched up on linebackers, and there won't be a more practical opportunity to scheme touches for a guy like Garrett Greene than coming off a bye week with CJ Donaldson's touches up for grabs.
X-FACTOR - MARGINS
This may be the standing X-factor for these previews going forward. Basically, we have less margin for error than any team in the Big 12 besides Iowa State. Winning the field position and turnover battles, avoiding ill-timed drops and penalties, getting off the field on third down, turning quality possessions into touchdowns - all of those things were important before and are absolutely critical now. Our backs are against the wall here, gang. There is no more room for error.
HOW CONCERNED SHOULD WE BE?
6 out of 10. Baylor is a fundamentally sound and well-coached football team, but they don’t have as much high-end skill position talent as the teams that have hurt us do. There are some good players to be sure, but these guys are definitely not Texas and I’m not even sure they’re Pitt or Week 2 Kansas. There is absolutely no reason we can’t beat this team at home on a Thursday night.
We're winning the game. We have to. Control the pace with the dink and dunk offense, stop the run, and send these mfs packing. LFG.