Baylor offense vs. Kansas State defense

Baylor’s offense showed signs of what it can do in Saturday’s 49-41 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma as Zach Smith hit 33 of 50 passes for 463 yards and four touchdowns. But the Bears had trouble getting anything on the ground as the Sooners limited them to 60 yards on 35 carries. Kansas State leads the Big 12 in fewest points allowed (13.3), total defense (286.3) and passing yards (153.7). The Wildcats will make it difficult for the Bears to move the ball like they did against the Sooners.

Edge: Kansas State

Baylor defense vs. Kansas State offense

The Bears had made considerable strides defensively in losses to UTSA and Duke, but they quickly learned how powerful Oklahoma’s offense is as they allowed 625 yards. While Baker Mayfield threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns, Oklahoma’s running game piled up 342 yards and four scores while averaging 8.6 yards per carry. Kansas State’s offense won’t be nearly as explosive, but quarterback Jesse Ertz is a solid dual-threat quarterback who can run a ball control offense.

Edge: Kansas State

Key matchup: Baylor running backs vs. Kansas State defensive line

Baylor’s offensive line made considerable strides against Oklahoma as it gave quarterback Zach Smith good protection, but the Bears are still struggling to run the ball. Kansas State’s defense has been the best in the Big 12. The run defense has allowed 132.7 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry, so it could be difficult for the Bears to establish a consistent ground game. That would put the pressure on Smith to carry much of the load like he did against the Sooners.

Edge: Kansas State

Special teams

Baylor’s special teams keep getting better each week as Connor Martin hit four of five field goals against Oklahoma to earn Big 12 special teams player of the week. Punter Drew Galitz leads the Big 12 with a 45.2-yard average while Tony Nicholson provided a boost by returning two punts for 47 yards against Oklahoma. Kansas State’s Matthew McCrain has hit four of six field goals while punter Nick Walsh is averaging 36.1 yards. D.J. Reed is an explosive return man who is averaging 45.3 yards on kick returns and 21.7 yards on punt returns.

Edge: Baylor

Intangibles

Bill Snyder Family Stadium has always been a tough place to play for the Bears, mainly because the stadium’s namesake puts such skilled, physical teams on the field. With a fervent fan base, it’s one of the loudest stadiums in the Big 12, which makes it hard for the visiting team to communicate. The Wildcats were No. 18 in the country before losing a road game to Vanderbilt two weeks ago. While Baylor showed dramatic improvement against Oklahoma, it’s a lot to ask Matt Rhule’s young team to pull of a win in Manhattan.

Edge: Kansas State

— John Werner

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