When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. Baylor rush defense
Behind their best physical performance of the season up front and the hard-running style of running backs James Sims and Darrian Miller, the Jayhawks found their running identity again last week against Oklahoma. KU’s offensive line dominated the Sooners’ defense during the first quarter, and Sims picked up his 13th career 100-yard rushing effort, while Miller chipped in 67 yards on just nine carries. The return of the KU running game arrived just in time, as the Jayhawks will need to rely heavily on the ground attack this week against Baylor, both to move the ball and to control the clock and keep the Bears’ high-powered offense on the sideline. The presence of true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart in the Jayhawks’ game plan brings a different dimension to the run game, but Cozart still has just two drives’ worth of experience and can’t be counted on just yet, and the Bears are giving up just 136 yards per game on the ground and have surrendered just five touchdowns. Edge: Push.
Kansas pass offense vs. Baylor pass defense
Baylor’s defense leads the nation with an average of seven three-and-outs forced per game, and the Bears have forced 42 three-and-outs in 88 drives by opponents so far this season. That’s not good for a KU passing offense that has delivered more than its share of those during the past few weeks. Not only do the Bears feature a ferocious pass rush that takes advantage of playing from ahead and facing offenses forced into obvious passing situations, but they’re facing a KU squad that threw for just 16 yards last week and is experimenting with true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart, along with junior starter Jake Heaps, in an effort to spark KU’s struggling passing game. The KU wide receivers have been virtually non-existent this season, so the onus in the passing game falls on running-back-turned-wide-receiver Tony Pierson and tight end Jimmay Mundine. Both have had great moments this year, but the Bears will present a nasty match-up. Edge: Baylor.
When Baylor has the ball
Baylor rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
Junior tailback Lache Seastrunk, who made headlines this offseason for his bold and open claim that he was going after the Heisman Trophy, has gained 760 yards and 10 touchdowns in six games this season. That’s good for 127 yards per game on the ground, but the more impressive number is his yards-per-carry average of 9.2 and the fact that he’s been on the bench during the second half quite often this season as the Bears have rolled over opponents by an average margin of 65-16, which has cleared the way for Seastrunk’s back-ups Shock Linwood (337 yards and 5 touchdowns) and Glasco Martin (251, 4) to do their share of damage. With a monster offensive line and a potent passing game that keeps opposing defenses from stacking the box, the Bears have run wild over everyone. Edge: Baylor.
Baylor pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
If he had a bigger name or took snaps for a traditional powerhouse program, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty would be very much at the forefront of the Heisman Trophy conversation. Through six games during his first season as a starter, the junior from Midlothian, Texas, has completed 102 of 144 pass attempts for 2,023 yards, 15 touchdowns and an average of 337 yards per game. Five Petty targets have double-digit receptions already this season, six have scored touchdowns through the air, and coach Art Briles’ offense, which spreads out defenses from sideline to sideline and takes advantage of Baylor’s insane team speed, has scored almost at will throughout much of the 2013 season, with Petty pulling the trigger to make it all go. Antwan Goodley (36 receptions, 851 yards, 8 TDs) and Tevin Reese (29, 714, 6) lead the way for the Baylor receivers, giving Petty two dynamic weapons and plenty of options when opponents focus a lot of their attention on those two. KU’s pass defense has been a strength throughout much of the season, as the Jayhawks have gotten interceptions and sacks at a more regular rate than any time in the past five years, but the Bears play at a whole different level. Edge: Baylor.
Place kicker Matthew Wyman has been a nice upgrade for the Jayhawks this season, but the walk-on kicker has a long way to go before he reaches the level of Baylor kicker Aaron Jones. Jones, who leads the nation with 155 consecutive extra-point makes, has connected on all 48 PAT tries this season and is 5-of-7 on field-goal attempts, with a long of 51 and his two misses coming in the 30-39-yard range. In addition to a sound kicking game — Baylor also averages 45 yards per punt and touchbacks on nearly 50 percent of its kickoffs — the Bears feature a dangerous return game, which averages 20.1 yards per kickoff return and 26 yards per punt return. The Jayhawks have made strides in special teams. But KU coach Charlie Weis said there were many elements of last week’s effort that left him displeased, and that’s enough to give BU the nod here. Edge: Baylor.