No. 23 West Virginia (4-2) enters a weekend as a ranked team for the third different time this season as it faces winless Baylor (0-6) on Saturday in Waco.
Whereas WVU is riding high after it’s comeback victory a week ago against Texas Tech, the Bears are just hoping to reverse the fate they’ve had for some time. Baylor has failed to win a regular season contest in nearly a full calendar year.
Matt Rhule’s team has played opponents tough, with three of the six losses coming by seven or fewer points.
Here’s a scouting report on the team the Mountaineers will look to keep out of the win column:
Bears without much of a bite, offensively
Under former head coach Art Briles, the Baylor Bears grew a reputation of having a very high-powered offense. That’s no longer the case.
Baylor is averaging nearly 20 points fewer per game than the Mountaineers, and are being outgained by WVU by over 150 yards per contest. The Bears have only eclipsed 400 yards of total offense twice this season, while WVU has done that in all but one. Normally a good passing team, Baylor ranks just seventh in the Big 12 in terms of passing yards.
Mims the word
One thing that Baylor has been able to do well this year is get explosive plays. The Bears rank first in the Football Bowl Subdivision with seven plays that have traveled 70-plus yards.
In the middle of that is wide receiver Denzel Mims. Mims ranks second in the Big 12 in receiving touchdowns with seven and is sixth in receiving yards. The sophomore also has five receptions of 40 or more yards, which is second best in the conference. One of those plays was a 71-yard touchdown against Oklahoma, and another was a 70-yard catch and run the following week versus Kansas State. Mims’ biggest game of the year came in Baylor’s one-possession loss to Oklahoma, during which he caught seven passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
Rhule has played 17 true freshmen through the first six weeks, which ranks fourth nationally, and started as many as nine true freshmen in one game earlier this year.
Twenty-two different Baylor players have made their first ever start this year, and in total nearly 50 percent of the starters have been underclassmen.
Battered and Bruised
Six Baylor players are expected to be out for the year with injuries. This includes wideout Chris Platt, who was proving to be an explosive threat opposite of Mims on the outside. A total of 13 players have missed at least six games this year, and four players have yet to make their season debut due to injury.
Bears without much of a bite, defensively, too
Defensively, the Bears rank near the bottom of the conference in almost all categories. Baylor is the only team in the Big 12 worse than WVU at stopping the run.
Baylor has surrendered 15 rushing touchdowns this year, including five against Oklahoma State last week. WVU has tallied 13 rushing scores through the first six games. The Bears also rank 125 out of 129 teams in total defense.
Johnston leads the way
Sophomore Clay Johnston leads the Baylor defense.
He paces the Bears in total tackles (45) and tackles for loss with nine – 3.5 more than any other player on his team. His 1.5 tackles for loss per game is third-best in the Big 12. Johnston racked up a career-high 13 tackles earlier this year in a game against Duke.
Stops in the backfield
With Johnson taking charge when it comes to stopping plays in the backfield, that’s been one element to the Baylor defense that has succeeded. As a team, Baylor’s 41 tackles for loss ranks third in the Big 12.
However, BU’s offensive line has surrendered 44 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Both those numbers will be put to the test against West Virginia, who enters the weekend having allowed the fewest plays to be blown up in the backfield, yet defensively haven’t been overly successful at in that category.