Nick Florence and the Baylor Bears hope three's the charm against BCS No. 1 Kansas State when they come to town on Saturday night. The Wildcats have lost two straight in Waco; this time the stakes are much higher than ever for coach Bill Snyder's undefeated squad.
But unlike those last two losses, Kansas State now boasts a Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the nation's best defenses. QB Collin Klein and this offense runs for over 200 yards per game, and continues to chew clock like a rabid dog in a shoe store.
They continued that against TCU in Week 11, hanging on for a 23-10 victory in Fort Worth. For Baylor, it's been about the defense all season. As Snyder said about the Bears in preparation for this week in an ESPN preview, there aren't many teams with the kind of offensive capability that have fewer wins than Baylor (four).
With national championship implications officially on the line for the No. 1 team in the nation, it will be interesting to see how the Wildcats perform with a target on their back. It won't be an easy task in Waco, as Florence and this Bears offense has their backs against the wall towards a bowl berth.
When: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Floyd Casey Stadium; Waco, Tex.
Watch: ESPN, WatchESPN (live stream)
Spread: Kansas State -13 (according to Bovada)
The spread opened at 10 earlier in the week, seemingly low for the nation's top team facing a squad that hasn't won more than four games through Week 11.
Don't be suckered into that bet without looking at the way Baylor has played opponents this year. Both times they haven't covered in losses (TCU and Iowa State) the game was roughly a toss up. Underdogs against West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma last week, the Bears have lost by a combined 21 points in those three games.
Baylor is a sneaky pick to cover this weekend. Granted, all three of their close losses have been on the road. But don't take the big spread just because it's the No. 1 team against one of the Big 12's lower seeded teams.
Over/Under: 74 (according to Vegas Insider)
It's a battle of different styles, but both teams have put up large numbers in different contests this season. Baylor defense is a sure bet to give up 40 points, so take the over here. The Bears have found ways to score both on the ground and through the air, so there's no shame in the amount of points K-State might give up.
Injury Report via USA TODAY (as of 11/14/12)
WR Tyler Lockett - Questionable (Ankle)
DB Ty Zimmerman - Questionable (Leg)
S K.J. Morton - Questionable (Groin)
Kansas State enters this game with a huge bullseye on its back. Win, and the road to the national championship game becomes a little bit clearer. Lose, and chaos breaks lose.
Baylor likely isn't anywhere near the Top 25, even with an upset win, so this game is all about what Kansas State will do to retain the No. 1 ranking in the country. With Oregon playing a Top-15 opponent on the road, it might not matter what the Wildcats do if Oregon's strength of schedule finally vaults them to the top.
Key to Kansas State Victory: Secondary play
Allen Chapman leads this group of secondary guys against a very talented receiving corp for Baylor. Terrance Williams looks like a first-round pick, and Tevin Reese and Linear Sampson are guys you can't leave open.
Kansas State needs to follow the blueprint by Oklahoma's secondary, playing man coverage across the board with two safeties over the top. It extends drives for Baylor (something they don't necessarily want) because they have to run the ball against a five- or six-man box.
Everyone and their momma knows Baylor wants to throw the ball 50 times. But Kansas State will have a good shot to win if they can reach into their depth to cover some of the top receivers in the country in man coverage.
Key to Baylor Victory: Tackling Ballcarriers
Plain and simple for Baylor—make tackles. This defense has been awful against Texas and West Virginia and the rest of the Big 12. Frankly, the only game that wasn't frustrating was a win over lowly Kansas.
Can anyone from Baylor step up to tackle Klein and John Hubert, one of the most menacing duos in the conference? Missed tackles will lead to an easy day for Kansas State's offense, as Snyder will be content with five to eight yards per play on any Saturday his team is in action.
Simply too much Klein in this one. Like last week, people underestimate Baylor's offense. Florence is having a great season in which he'll likely throw for over 4,000 yards, but the defense lets the Bears down again at home.
Kansas State 45, Baylor 34
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Follow @DowntownEG