Baylor vs. West Virginia: How the Mountaineers Will Win Their Big 12 Debut
The West Virginia Mountaineers have dominated three non-conference teams to start their 2012 season. They should be well-prepared to make their anticipated debut in the Big 12, facing the No. 25 Baylor Bears on Saturday.
Fans should leave Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown in a good mood.
However, this won't likely be a game defensive coaches will cherish. Baylor enters the contest averaging over 50 points a game, while West Virginia is just under that mark.
The Bears have not seemed to miss a step after losing Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright to the NFL. Nick Florence has stepped in behind center and is working well with receivers Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese.
Williams has 353 yards and four touchdowns with Reese grabbing 304 yards and three scores in their first three games.
Baylor's problem is on the defensive side of the ball. It gave up 42 points to the surprising University of Louisiana-Monroe in its last game and finished the 2011 season by surrendering 56 points to Washington.
That isn't good news as the Bears prepare to face the only Big 12 receiving duo that is arguably better than their pair. Senior Tavon Austin and Junior Stedman Bailey are averaging over 100 yards per game and both have five touchdown receptions this season.
But in this game featuring two high-powered offenses, it will be defense that tips the scales.
The Mountaineers are moving on without Bruce Irvin, their standout defender from 2011. Their defense is their weak link, but junior defensive lineman Will Clarke is just fine with that perception.
"We like it when people think that way," Clarke stated according to Wendell Barnhouse of Big 12 Sports.
"It's motivation when people are saying you're not that good, that you're going to struggle. As a unit, we're more comfortable and confident than we were last year."
Who will win this game?
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen believes his defense will be ready, per comments made during Monday's Big 12 conference call. He stated the key will be to look forward, not back.
Baylor's got a great offense, and if you think we're just gonna shut 'em down, you're nuts. You've gotta line up, keep playing, no matter what.
You have to have the ability to line up and execute your job on the next series. You give up a couple of plays or touchdowns, you've got to get out there and make a few stops.
The real advantage for the Mountaineers' defense will be the home crowd. Morgantown will be a crazy environment as West Virginia opens Big 12 play for the first time.
They aren't likely to stop the Bears, but they can do enough to slow them down. With Geno Smith finding his receivers early and often, the Mountaineers should be able to keep enough distance to make the game safe, but Baylor will stay close enough to make it entertaining.
A complete game summary is available from Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Alex Sims.
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and Seattle Seahawks.
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