- Baylor's defensive numbers are decent, but they are getting dominated in the field position battle, and if you give your opponents a 60-yard field while working on an 80-yard field, eventually you're going to tumble. They do a pretty good job of forcing Passing Downs, though.
- As a reminder about my piece from the other day, Missouri currently has the best rushing defense in the Big 12 and second-best defense on Non-Passing Downs. Only Colorado is worse than Baylor in terms of Passing Downs success, so this could be big. Robert Griffin's (I felt I owed it to him to say his name right at least once) legs are obviously a concern (especially considering Baylor runs the ball almost 50% of the time in Passing Downs...meaning lots of QB draws), but he can only pull so many rabbits out of his hat. Force Baylor into enough Passing Downs, and this one's over.
- Credit to Griffin for (as strange as this may sound) committing to being a QB. You see those high sack rates? With Griffin's elusiveness, that suggests that he really does stick around in the pocket trying to complete a pass. It might not be smart necessarily, but it's admirable.
- You've also got to love Griffin's 9-to-0 TD-INT ratio. Anytime your ratio is infinity, you're doing pretty well. I expect the ratio to become a real number this week, though. Just a hunch.
- It's amazing how playing Colorado makes your pass defense numbers look a whole helluva lot better. Missouri almost has it's Pass Defense S&P below 0.800!
Alright, let's see what the situational numbers tell us...
- It's impressive how close the performance of Baylor and their opponents is on a per-quarter basis. Doesn't really say anything, but it's interesting. Also interesting: Baylor has its most success at the beginning of the game, but their offensive act wears thin as the game progresses. This could actually help Baylor a bit, as Missouri is at its most vulnerable in Q1. I could definitely see a situation where the game is tied for a while in Q1 and maybe Q2, and Missouri slowly pulls away.
- Meanwhile Baylor THRIVES on 2nd downs. As does the Missouri defense. I still have yet to figure out the significance of 2nd downs--why some teams are amazing at them and bad at 1st/3rd downs, and vice versa--but it's certainly the linchpin down for the Bears.
- Baylor's defense tends to get incrementally worse on each down, as does, actually, Missouri's offense.
Key Players: Baylor
QB Hot Tub Griffin III
Let's not beat around the bush here. If Baylor is to beat Missouri, it's going to be by Robert Griffin pulling a "2002 Brad Smith against Oklahoma."
RB Jay Finley
Baylor's second-best offensive weapon, Finley is averaging 6.0 yards and a serviceable 0.806 S&P per carry. He's not to be mistaken for Demarco Murray or something here (as his meager 0.39 PPP would suggest), but he's not bad. And obviously if five guys are keying on Griffin, that opens up holes for Finley. The other options for "Most important offensive player other than Griffin" are either WR Kendall Wright or WR Justin Akers, the Bears' two best WR weapons from a PPP (i.e. explosiveness) perspective.
LB Joe Pawelek
Baylor's leader in INTs, fumble recoveries and QB Hurries (plus their almost leader in Tackles for Loss), Pawelek is a solid player and clearly the closest-thing Baylor has to a game-changer on defense. He's got a ridiculous number of tackles, but that doesn't mean much against an offense that spreads you from sideline to sideline. He's on this list because he makes the big plays. Plus, you have to figure he'll end up matched up with Chase Coffman at least a little bit. Good luck with that.
KR Mikail Baker
BU's starting D-line has only managed 4.5 sacks this year, and while DE Leon Freeman might actually be pretty decent, we're going in a different direction with the last Key Player pick. Buffalo hung with Mizzou for a while, in part because Ernest Jackson took a kick deep early in the game. It gave both the Buffalo offense and defense a chance to get their bearings and stay in the game. Baker has a kick return TD this year, and while he has otherwise been only average, if he can return another one, it could keep Baylor close.
Key Players: Mizzou
TE Chase Coffman
I'm mainly putting him on here because I haven't put him on here yet, and his play over the last few games has been unreal, even for him. Jeremy Maclin is doing his best to assure himself of a double-team over the rest of the season (if teams aren't doing that already), which just increases the odds that Coffman will be lined up in the slot, one-on-one with a soon-to-be hapless linebacker. Which means very, very good things for Missouri.
Also, I just can't help but be amazed that he hurdles somebody EVERY SINGLE WEEK. That CU defender he hurdled last week didn't even crouch down very far, and he still hurdled him. The Flying Nunchuk will live on forever. Knowshon who?
OL Colin Brown
Really, I was going to list the entire O-line, but Brown has had a ridiculous number of false start penalties in the last couple of games, and because of that he was the only member of the Mizzou O-line that didn't completely dominate last week. The only times Mizzou has stumbled this year, it was mostly because the line didn't block well at all. Baylor doesn't have much to offer in terms of Defensive Line prowess, but decent players like Trey Bryant and Leon Freeman could still have a decent day if Mizzou's O-line isn't clicking. No pressure on Daniel = no chance for Baylor.
LB Brock Christopher, LB Sean Weatherspoon, FS William Moore, or whoever ends up shadowing Hot Tub Griffin III the most
Shadowing Griffin has to be Job #1 for the Mizzou defense. He's going to get yards on scrambles, but if you hold him to 5-15 yards instead of 25-infinity yards, and you make the poor-success-rate offense go the length of the field, they'll likely stumble along the way. I could see Mizzou somewhat busting out the Illinois gameplan--have Moore chase Griffin all game and see if he can throw the deep ball like Juice Williams can (he can't...well, maybe he can, but he doesn't have the WRs).
P Jake Harry
I'm reaching here, but there is no other player who is more closely tied to Mizzou's success than Harry. Harry doesn't see the field, Mizzou doesn't lose. It's all so simple when you break it down scientifically!
I really am disappointed that this one's not on television. I'm not sure how far Hot Tub Griffin III can take Baylor over his remaining 3.5 years, but there's no doubting the fact that he's entertaining as all hell. I'd love to get the chance to see how well he actually plays the position of quarterback, but I guess I'll have to wait until Monday or Tuesday to see that. And either way, Baylor just does not have the horses on either side of the ball yet. Brad Smith at least had Justin Gage and James Kinney his first year.
Tuesday's projections said 32-22 Missouri. My Roundtable prediction was 48-17 Missouri. How about we just average that? New pick: 40-20 Missouri.
Actually, no. Scratch that. The more I think about this, the more I'm allowing Baylor 14 points via outstanding play from Hot Tub Griffin III, and no more. Beyond that, in games against teams not named Oklahoma State or Texas, Mizzou is averaging 54.2 points per game. Baylor's defense is much closer to that of Illinois, Nevada, SEMO, Buffalo, Nebraska and Colorado than that of OSU and Texas. So I'm taking 7 points away from Baylor and adding it to Mizzou's ledger. 47-13 Missouri. That's science at its best right there.