Kansas (2-5) at (12) Baylor (6-1) (ET)
GAME NOTES: A pair of well-rested Big 12 Conference teams get together on Saturday afternoon, as the Kansas Jayhawks pay a visit to the 12th-ranked Baylor Bears.
Both teams enjoyed byes last weekend, and Kansas comes in at 2-5 overall, 0-4 in conference, and still in search of its first win for interim head coach Clint Bowen. The Jayhawks have lost four straight after beginning the season with two wins in their first three bouts. The road to that elusive initial victory for Bowen is a difficult one, as in addition to this game KU will host Iowa State (its best chance) and TCU before closing with a pair of road tilts at Oklahoma and Kansas State.
Bowen was asked how he felt about having the bye week fall where it did.
"It allows us to do a lot of things that I think are important for this team. We need to focus on improvement in all areas -- offense, defense, special teams, everything. It will be a good fundamental improvement week."
Baylor is 6-1 on the campaign, the team staking claim to six consecutive victories before falling at West Virginia on Oct. 18, 41-27. The setback came a week after coach Art Briles' squad outlasted TCU at home in a wild 61-58 final. The Bears are still in the thick of the Big 12 title race, but important bouts with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State loom.
Baylor, which has won 13 straight home games (second-longest streak in the nation) and is 22-1 in Waco since 2011 (tops in the nation over that span), leads the all-time series with Kansas, 9-4. The Bears have never lost to the Jayhawks in six previous tussles at home.
Kansas has certainly had its share of difficulties moving the ball and putting points on the scoreboard, as the team ranks last in the Big 12 in both total offense (336.3 ypg) and scoring offense (16.6 ppg). Throwing the ball has been the biggest issue for the Jayhawks, as Montell Cozart has completed a dismal 49.6 percent of his passes for 693 yards, five TDs and seven INTs. Michael Cummings hasn't been much better, hitting 55.7 percent of his tosses for 594 yards with two TDs and two picks. As for the KU run game, the duo of Corey Avery and De'Andre Mann have combined for 779 yards, with Avery finding the end zone three times. Pass catchers Jimmay Mundane and Nick Harwell have joined forces to tally 553 yards and three scores.
The Jayhawks also aren't among the better teams in the Big 12 when it comes to performing on the defensive side of the ball, but they aren't the worst either, as foes are generating 28 ppg behind typical outputs of 179.3 ypg on the ground and 232 ypg through the air. Ben Heeney (84 stops) continues the pace the unit as he amassed more than twice as many tackles as his closest teammate (Isaiah Johnson, 41). Michael Reynolds has been credited with five of the team's 11 sacks, and Dexter McDonald has two of its seven INTs.
Heeney was a man possessed in KU's 34-21 loss at Texas Tech a couple of weeks back, logging a career-best 21 tackles, 10 of which he recorded in the opening quarter. It was the most tackles by a Jayhawks defender since LeRoy Irvin, Sr. tallied the same number back on Nov. 22, 1979.
When the dust had settled, Kansas had 363 yards of total offense compared to 507 for the Red Raiders. Cummings played the entire game and went 20-of-32 for 235 yards with a pair of TDs and one pick, hitting Mundane a game-high seven times for 82 yards and a score. Avery churned out 69 yards on 15 carries. The defense surrendered 219 yards on the ground, 288 via the pass, and came up with a pair of turnovers.
In stark contrast, Baylor is among the very best offensive teams in the country, ranking first in yards (579 per game) and second in scoring (49 ppg). The Bears feature a slew of talented playmakers, notably quarterback Bryce Petty (117-of-214, 1,757 yards, 17 TDs, three INTs) and running back Shock Linwood (140 carries, 696 yards, nine TDs). Petty spreads the ball around, as four different receivers have at least 21 catches, with KD Cannon pacing the group with 31 grabs for 661 yards and six scores. The top four receivers have accounted for 20 TD receptions.
The Bears have been pretty much on point when it comes to stopping the opposition this season, although the last two games has seen the squad allow 58 and 41 points to the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers, respectively. As a result, BU's average yield has climbed to 23 ppg (fourth-lowest in the league), and it ranks second in the Big 12 both against the run (111.9 ypg) and the pass (213.4 ypg). Bryce Hager has 55 tackles to this point, while both Orion Stewart and Xavien Howard have picked off a pair of passes. Shawn Oakman has five sacks.
Petty threw for 223 yards and two TDs against West Virginia, but he was sacked four times, Linwood was limited to 69 yards and a score on 21 totes, and the Baylor defense allowed 456 yards to the hometown Mountaineers.
The Bears failed to take full advantage of three takeaways, as they were flagged a ridiculous 18 times for a loss 215 yards (a Big 12 record). WVU was guilty of 14 infractions for a loss of 138 yards in what was truly an undisciplined game. BU was successful on only 3-of-16 third-down opportunities, and got 13 tackles from Hager, 12 from Taylor Young, including a pair of sacks, and 11 from Stewart.
Briles was stunned by the number of penalties called in the contest.
"I've never been involved with anything like that. You could check the last however many games we've had, and I don't think we've ever had that many penalties in a game. I guess that's just the way it was seen today. It affected the flow of the game."
You can bet Briles used the bye week to address the penalty issue, so it would be very surprising to see the Bears show the same lack of control. Simply put, Baylor is the superior team in this matchup, and it shouldn't take long for the home team to impose its will.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Baylor 49, Kansas 14