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Kansas vs. Baylor: Stat-based Preview

Taking a look at the weekend's matchup between the Kansas Jayhawks and Baylor Bears.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas Baylor
F/+ 91 5
Sagarin 100 4
Massey 93 5

Saturday provides another opportunity for the Jayhawks to end the infamous conference streak, though if we are projecting outcomes based on the statistical profiles nobody should get their hopes too high for that to happen this week. Baylor appears to be the best team on the schedule if we are judging by any available ranking system. The BCS has them at 8th overall, the AP poll has them at #6, and the USA Today Coaches Poll has them at #5. In their six games, they have scored 69 points or more in five of them. Over the five games the Jayhawks have played against FBS teams, they have scored a total of 79 points. Yeah, it's going to take a semi-miracle to stay in the game. Before getting to statistical profiles of each team, it is worth noting that Baylor's only traveled once this year. That road game at Kansas State was by far their worst performance of the year, lets hope it had more to do with the road than the opponent.

Offensive Measures

The following table shows the offensive ranks in the components of FEI and S&P+ from Football Outsiders. The FEI numbers are drive-based and listed first. The S&P+ numbers are derived from play-by-play data and are the second group of numbers in the table.

Kansas Baylor
Off F/+ 114 2
Off FEI 114 10
Off Efficiency 122 1
First Down Rate 123 1
Available Yards 123 1
Explosive 96 1
Methodical 118 85
Value Drives 122 2
Off S&P+ 111 1
Std. Downs 93 4
Pass Downs 113 1
Passing 115 1
Rushing 94 15
Drive Efficiency 112 2

It's pretty easy to see the difference between the offenses when looking at these two teams. Not only is Baylor the best offensive unit in the Big 12, they might be the best offensive unit in college football. The one component of FEI that does not have them highly rated is the methodical drives, possessions of 10 or more plays. When you're #1 in explosive drives, being last in methodical drives is not an issue. As a matter of fact, almost 40% of Baylor's drives this year average more than 10 yards a play. The highest percentage of explosive drives the last two years has been around 27%. Both play-by-play and the drive based metrics love the Bears.

Moving on to the KU offense, there isn't a lot to excite the fans. The ground game is better than the passing game. Though being 96th in explosive drives is a bit of surprise and has to be almost entirely due to Tony Pierson. As Penhawk showed yesterday, it's just not a good unit.

Defensive Measures

The same categories as above, except this time we're looking at the performance of the defensive units. A few things stick out that should give us at least something watch for on Saturday.

Kansas Baylor
Def F/+ 48 22
Def FEI 37 24
Def Efficiency 44 18
D. First Down 101 19
D. Available Yards 74 27
D. Explosive 29 25
D. Methodical 76 61
D. Value Drives 63 24
DSOS 76 117
Def S&P+ 77 16
D. Std. Downs 90 44
D. Pass Downs 61 43
D. Passing 62 48
D. Rushing 95 50
D. Drive Efficiency 79 10

As noted on Tuesday when Pen looked at the defense, the drive-based measures think a bit more highly of the Kansas defense than the play-by-play numbers. The strength of the KU defense has been due to an effective bend but don't break approach. Keep the offense from long plays and make them work to score. The defensive backs have also been fantastic at breaking up long passes all season. This weekend is obviously the biggest challenge of the year in this aspect. Baylor has had an amazing 58 plays go for 20 or more yards this year and averaging almost 10 a game (2nd most in conference is 6 per game). If we can keep that in check, I'll buy in 100% on our defense. Most readers here know that I've been more down on our defense than almost anyone and that's almost entirely due to our rankings in first down rate and available yards. Allowing that many first downs and yards is going to bite back when playing capable offensive teams. The bend but don't break has worked but we've also been fortunate with turnovers, if that disappears this season I'm afraid any shine on the defense disappears.

Baylor's defense isn't quite to the level of the offense but they deserve respect based on what they've done. K-State was able to do some things offensively with Daniel Sams at quarterback, leading to a little bit of hope that Montell Cozart might be able to find some success. Without going back and looking through Baylor's individual games, I'd wager a big chunk of the ranking 61 in allowing methodical drives is related to their performance in Manhattan. There is also a fairly sizable difference between their drive metrics and play-by-play metrics. I know FEI throws out end of game garbage time situations but I don't know if it also ignores situations when the score isn't close. S&P+ does ignore situations when the score isn't close:

The S&P+ figures used in the tables below only look at the plays that took place while a game was deemed competitive. Garbage-time plays and possessions have been filtered out of the calculations. The criteria for "garbage time" are as follows: a game is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third quarter, or 16 points in the fourth quarter.

After a quick look back through Baylor's scores, I figure out of their 24 quarters played this year only about 10 are counted in their S&P numbers. The discrepancy in plays/drives counted could be causing the difference, especially when all 4 of the quarters against K-State are counted.

After what we've seen this year, I'll be focusing on three things Saturday night.

  1. Can the defense keep Baylor's big plays somewhat in check? We're not shutting them down. K-State made them work harder than they have all year and they still had 3 plays that went for 50+ yards and touchdowns. Just can't let it happen often or easily.
  2. Baylor "struggled" to get the ground game going against Iowa State early last week. Can the KU defense do the same this week and force Baylor to throw the ball? It hasn't been the M.O. of the defense to play that style. We've seen the safeties back and focused on stopping big plays instead of being aggressive to stop the run. If we use the same approach against Baylor, can we keep Lache Seastrunk under 200 yards?
  3. What does the staff do with the offense? The run game looked good early against Oklahoma, using the power formations some of us have been calling for all year. Will that continue? Now we also know we can expect to see Cozart, will he be allowed to pass? Will he get multiple chances to run the offense?