This week’s edition of X’s and O’s takes a look at the BIG 12 matchup between #25 Baylor and #9 West Virginia.
West Virginia is sure to get a warm welcome to the Big 12 conference when Baylor comes to Morgantown for one of only two Top 25 matchups this Saturday. Expect these two high-powered offenses to put on a show. West Virginia led by 2nd year coach Dana Holgorson has been lighting up the scoreboard with Heisman contending QB Geno Smith at the helm. Holgorson has become quickly known for his high powered offenses, and is no stranger to the Big 12. Holgorson was previously the Offensive Coordinator at Oklahoma St, where his air raid attack was first utilized. Holgorsen also had successful stints as the OC at Texas Tech and Houston. Baylor is not an offensive slouch either. Even after the loss of last year’s Heisman trophy winner, Baylor is 5th in points per game at 51.3, but has yet to be tested against BCS caliber completion. The Mountaineers are poised to give the Bears all they can handle in Morgantown. Let’s look at the X’s and O’s
Baylor Offense vs. West Virginia Defense
Baylor and West Virginia are similar in the sense that they both run a spread offense, but the style of attack and offensive goals of these two teams are completely different. Baylor will run a balanced spread attack, and even though they are currently 5th in the nation in passing yards, the air attack is possible through their use of the spread option offense. The spread option offense uses exclusively shotgun sets, and zone blocking schemes. The QB ideally will read the defenses DE or LB’s to determine where the ball goes on a particular play. QB Nick Florence has been extremely effective for Baylor following the loss of Robert Griffin III. He has thrown for over 1000 yards, and is the second leading rusher on the team. I would expect the zone read option to open up the pass game for big plays as it has so far this year for Baylor. Expect lots of 104 (1 RB, 4 WR), 203 (2RB, 3WR), 005 (5WR), and 113 (1RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) personal packages from Baylor. West Virginia will counter these sets with their base defense (3-4), and also with Nickel (4 Defensive Linemen, 2 Line Backer, and 7 Defensive Backs) sets. West Virgina has played mediocre defense against mediocre to sub-par competition so far this year. One would forecast this game to be an offensive shoot out. West Virginia is fairly young on defense (6 returning starters from last year) so I would expect that they will rely on a high powered offense and bend but don’t break philosophy on defense to try and win this game. I’m sure that Baylor will look for some big plays early to take a rowdy home crowd out of the game, and keep the WVU defense on their heels.
West Virginia Offense vs. Baylor Defense
Heisman contending QB Geno Smith will be at the helm for the high octane West Virginia offense. West Virginia will operate a more pass happy spread then Baylor. West Virginia only resorts to running the ball in order to keep the defense honest, but their air raid attack is what they rely on to score points. Smith has been extremely efficient at QB completing 98 of his 118 pass attempts for over 1000 yards in only 3 games. West Virginia will utilize primarily the 104 (1 RB, 4WR), 005 (5 WR), 014 (1 TE, 4 WR), and 203 (2 RB, 3 WR) sets. Given the experience of Smith, West Virginia allows him to make a lot of adjustments at the line of scrimmage depending on the type of defense he sees. WVU will utilize an assortment of pre-snap motion to both identify defensive coverages, and look for match-up advantages against the secondary of the defense. Baylor’s defense is ranked 90th in points against, and they have yet to play a BCS conference opponent. Baylor will utilize a 4-2-5 base defense will elements of the 3-4 mixed in. The 4-2-5 was designed to get athletes on the field, and specifically to counter spread offenses. Expect Baylor to attempt to try and disguise their defense in an attempt to confuse the reads of Smith. I also expect Baylor to use zone blitzing packages which are popular in the 4-2-5 scheme. I don’t expect Baylor will allow Smith to sit back and pick them apart while only rushing 4 defensive linemen. Smith is a throw first QB, but is a good athlete, and does have the ability to move around in the pocket and hurt you with his mobility. Baylor’s defense has not been great, and they have yet to face an opponent with anywhere near the offensive capabilities as WVU. Smith is not the only threat the Baylor defense needs to worry about. WRs Tavon Austin and Stedman Baily have both caught five touchdown passes, and both have 300 yards receiving on the year already going into only their fourth game of the year. I don’t expect Baylor to play a ton of man coverage’s against these guys given the distinct speed disadvantage. When Baylor does utilize man coverage I expect them to double either Austin, or Baily with over-under or in-out types of coverage’s to prevent any big plays. However, I don’t believe that they will be able to contain the WVU offense. The Mountaineer offense just has too much firepower, and Baylor’s defense has been mediocre at best. I expect WVU to score over 30 points in this game, and if Baylor hopes to contend they better force some punts early, and get on the scoreboard early and often.
Winner: West Virginia
We know Baylor is a good team, and the program is on the rise. The big question was whether they could keep up a potent offensive attack with the loss of Robert Griffin. They have been very efficient and balanced in doing so thus far, but have yet to face a BCS conference caliber defense. Baylor will certainly score some points, but will it be enough to beat WVU? This Saturday I don’t expect Baylor to do so. I do expect this game to be a shootout, but somewhere in the 50-30 range in favor of WVU. The only knock on WVU is that they have been putting up a substantial amount of points against non BCS conference opponents while playing marginal defense against non BCS conference opponent’s offenses. They have yet to be truly tested on offense of defense. The Baylor defense isn’t great, but it is certainly the best WVU has seen all year. It’s my gut feeling that this game will be a dream watch for offensive minds like me. I’m predicting an early shootout with WVU pulling away by two to three touchdowns at the end. With that being said Baylor does have a shot to push WVU Saturday, and has proven they’re capable of playing with the elite programs (see 2 consecutive wins vs. Texas). Baylor’s success hinges largely upon scoring often and forcing West Virginia to turn the football over. If that perfect storm occurs then Baylor certainly has a shot given their offensive prowess. I want to say WVU by two or three TD’s. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if a sneaky Baylor Bears squad makes it interesting all the way to the end and this becomes a whoever has the ball last wins type of showdown. And isn’t that what we’re all looking for in a showdown like this?
Hype video of West Virginia’s arrival to the BIG 12…