For those of you who might have expected the Texas A&M-Arkansas to be the featured game this week, I hate to disappoint you, but the game of the week in the Big 12 is taking place in Manhattan, Kan., this weekend, where Kansas State is playing host to the high-scoring Baylor Bears, ranked 15th or 16th this week, depending on which national poll you follow.
As for the top-25 matchup in Dallas on Saturday between the Aggies and the Razorbacks, that's really a contest now between two SEC schools, whose origins began in the former Southwest Conference. As such, this big border war battle between the Lone Star State and the Natural State (with apologies to that other Texas school in Austin) is hardly about the Big 12, at least no longer.
Behind the sensational play of junior quarterback Robert Griffin III, Baylor brings the country's second-best offense to Kansas State, where it will go up against the No. 6-rated defense nationally. Baylor is averaging 594 yards of offense a game, with over 350 yards of that total coming through the air. Griffin has completed 70 of 82 pass attempts on the year, and incredibly has thrown more touchdown passes (13) than incompletions (12) in the Bears' three nonconference wins to start the season. Baylor also features the conference's fifth best rusher in senior Terrance Ganaway, who is averaging 96 yards per game running the ball.
To further illustrate how outstanding Griffin has been so far this year, his passing efficiency rating through three games is 236.23. The NCAA single-season record is 186.0. The Bears' last two victories, over Stephen F. Austin and Rice, amounted to not much more than scrimmages, but their impressive opening win over TCU set the tone for what Baylor's opponents can expect to see from coach Art Briles' squad this year.
Kansas State showed the country last weekend on national television just how good its defense is. Led by sophomore linebacker Tre Walker, from Olathe, Kan., the Wildcats stuffed the Miami Hurricanes in four consecutive plays late in the game from the K-State two-yard line to preserve a 28-24 upset victory over the hometown Canes. Walker made three critical tackles in that goal-line stand and was honored this week as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
Wildcat quarterback Colin Klein, who up to now has exhibited better running skills than as a passer, had the best game of his career throwing the ball against Miami. Klein is averaging over 100 yards a game running with the football, but against Miami he threw for a career-best 133 yards passing, including two touchdowns. The undefeated Wildcats (3-0) have allowed their three opponents an average of 246 yards of total offense and just 10.3 points a game.
Baylor comes in averaging over 50 points a game, third best in the country behind Georgia Tech and Oregon. This will give Kansas State its biggest defensive test of the season.
Baylor has too many weapons on the offensive side of the ball for Kansas State to expect to shut down RG3 & Company completely. The Bears will be able to move the ball and score. What the Wildcats hope to be able to do is slow down the Baylor attack, make them go long distances to score and create some turnovers, while being able to sustain drives of their own and keep the Bears' offense on the sidelines.
This game will surprise some people, and I predict it will be much closer than many people expect.
BAYLOR 31, Kansas State 27
Five Things You Should Know About This Game
- Robert Griffin III of Baylor has thrown only 12 incomplete passes in three games combined this season. The law of averages should finally catch up with the Bears' junior quarterback in this game. Going up against Bill Snyder's team on the road, I would be shocked if Griffin throws more touchdown passes than incompletions on the day.
- Defenses have always respected Robert Griffin's running ability, but this season it is his passing touch and incredible accuracy that has everyone aghast. Kansas State needs to stay mindful of the damage RG3 can do when he pulls down the ball and takes off on the run.
- K-State running back John Hubert had a career day against Miami, gaining 166 yards on the ground, including a 47-yard scamper. Can he put up these kind of numbers a second week in a row and become the Wildcats' go-to guy in the running game?
- Linebacker Arthur Brown, a junior transfer from Miami, has made his presence known in the middle of the Kansas State defense. The 6-foot-1, 223-pound Wichita native is among the conference leaders in tackles with 25, 11 of which were unassisted.
- Kansas State has held its opponents to only a 30-percent success rate in third-down-conversion attempts (12 out of 40). This could be an important factor against a high-powered, quick strike offense such as Baylor's.