Baylor Bears (6-5 SU, 2-9 ATS) vs. No. 18 West Virginia Mountaineers (9-2 SU, 5-5-1 ATS)
College Football Week 14
Date/Time: Saturday December 3rd, 2016. 3:30PM (EST)
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium Morgantown, W.V.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BAY +17/WVU -17
Over/Under Total: 65.5
It seems like an eternity ago but at one point this season the Baylor Bears were 6-0 SU with the no. 8 ranking in the FBS. Since that bright point in the season, nearly everything has went wrong for the Bears who have now lost 6 straight games. Not only have the losses been felt in the win/loss column but they Bears have also suffered big losses in the way of injuries with veteran quarterback Seth Russell going down several weeks ago to add to the troubles. Now Baylor looks to somehow end their losing streak this weekend as they go on the road to meet the no. 18 West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown in a season finale.
West Virginia on the other hand is having a season that the folks in Morgantown have been anticipating since Head Coach Dana Holgorsen led the Mountaineers to a 10-3 season with an Orange Bowl victory in his first season in 2011. The last several years have been mired by disappointment for West Virginia and there was a lot of talk over the summer that this could be Holgorsen's final season in Morgantown if he did not deliver. Fast forward to present day and the Mountaineers are 17 point favorites to reach their 10th win of the season which would tie the 2011 mark set by Holgorsen in his first season.
The big reason that the Mountaineers are having such a good season is because they have really played well on the defensive side of the football. Defense in general has become a lost art in the Big 12 highlighted by ridiculous high scoring shootouts on a consistent basis. However, the Mountaineers rank 2nd in the conference giving up just 23.6 points per game and how found ways to stop some of the top offenses in the country. It is the Mountaineers defense that is expected and should be the difference this Saturday when the Mountaineers welcome the Baylor Bears into Morgantown.
On paper, Baylor actually may appear as the more appeasing team in terms of stats. The Bears lead the Mountaineers in scoring 36.2 to 33.4 on average, 530.9 to 514 in total yards, and nearly mirror each other in total defense. However, those stats are a bit misleading especially considering the way Baylor started the season in impressive fashion under veteran Seth Russell. Since then the offense has been tamer with freshman quarterback Zach Smith completing 57% passing with just 8 scores and 4 picks in 3 games. During that time period, the Bears have been outscored 141-70 and have vastly under performed on offense.
I know the loss of Russell was a big factor in the decline of the offense but the Bears still have a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Running backs Shock Linwood and Terrence Williams are outstanding runners that have combined for more than 1,500 rushing yards. Williams leads the team with 10 rushing touchdowns but Linwood is just as capable. On the outside, the receiving corps are led by KD Cannon who has 68 grabs for 905 yards with 10 scores. Therefore, Baylor has the weapons to contend especially if they can get a better effort from Smith behind center.
Of course Baylor will have to play even better defensively to keep this game competitive. Baylor has given up 50 points on average over their last 4 contest and this West Virginia offense can test defenses in every way imaginable. I think everyone is aware with quarterback Skylar Howard and his abilities in the passing game but I am more intrigued with Justin Crawford's potential in this game. Crawford ripped Oklahoma for 331 yards on 24 carriers just two weeks ago and I think he has the ability to have another really big afternoon against this Baylor defense.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I have lost most confidence in Baylor and I don't see much hope for their defense at this point in the season. A few big plays by the West Virginia offense and this game could get really out of hand. Take West Virginia –17
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