Can the Baylor Bears really be College Football Playoff contenders?
At 7-0, it is certainly possible. The Bears have been a real surprise this season among the ranks of the unbeaten and sit atop the Big 12 standings through seven games.
Standing in their way of eight straight wins is conference foe West Virginia. The Mountaineers have struggled offensively this season, averaging the 11th fewest yards per game in the FBS this season.
Defensively, they haven’t faired much better allowing over 400 yards of offense per game. With the Bears clicking offensively at the right time, can Baylor make a statement win on a short week or will West Virginia get back on track in a big way?
West Virginia Mountaineers vs Baylor Bears
Thursday, October 31, 2019 at 8 p.m.
McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas
*All odds and betting info courtesy of OddsShark and originally posted by BetOnline
Spread: Baylor (-18 at -110)
Over/Under: 56 (O: -105 | U: -115)
West Virginia Mountaineers
One thing about West Virginia, despite their 3-4 start to the 2019 season: they don’t beat themselves. The young Mountaineers have been flagged just 40 times for 333 yards through seven games — 23rd fewest in the nation. Though they’ve turned the ball over 11 times already, it hasn’t made a massive difference.
But the Mountaineers just haven’t capitalized when they’ve needed. West Virginia is converting third downs at just 37 percent and have only averaged 314 yards of offense per game. The rushing game has been the main contributor to that — ranked 125th out of 130 teams averaging just 88 yards per game.
It’s uncharacteristic of a West Virginia team to struggle in the ground game, but this season has been a disappointment in that department.
The Bears haven’t allowed opponents to impose their will offensively this season. Through seven games, Baylor is conceding an average of 19 points per game – a low number for such a high-octane offensive conference like the Big 12.
One of the leaders on defense is junior lineman James Lynch who leads the team in sacks with 8.5 already – fifth-most in the FBS. He can take over the school record for career sacks with his next one.
But the Bears suffered a big blow when senior linebacker Clay Johnston, who had eight tackles for a loss, was sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
Offensively, Baylor has been led by stellar junior quarterback Charlie Brewer, who ranks 12th in the FBS with a passing efficiency of 163.4. His overall numbers don’t jump off the page given his 12 touchdown passes and 1,866 total yards, but he completes passes at 66 percent and rarely turns the ball over.
Both teams have hit the over this season for opposite reasons – Baylor’s efficient offense and West Virginia’s flawed defense. That should be the case on Thursday night when points won’t be at a premium during a classic Big 12 affair. Look for Mountaineers to hang around early but they won’t do enough to spook the visiting Bears on Halloween.
Pick: Baylor pulls away in the second half after West Virginia keeps it close early. The Bears cover the spread and hit the over, taking a 44-20 victory at home.