The Baylor Bears remain the second ranked team in the country, but they lost their starting quarterback for the season and 17 is a lot of points to give at Kansas State Thursday.
The second ranked team in the country may be in for a closer game than the hefty point spread suggests with its backup quarterback visiting a tough road venue in prime time Thursday night when those Baylor Bears (7-0, 4-2 ATS) pay a visit to the Kansas State Wildcats (3-4, 3-3 ATS) in Big 12 action from Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan, KS at 7:30 ET in a game televised nationally on FOX Sports 1.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Kansas State as a huge home underdog for this contest with the current line at +17 with odds of -106.
Neck Surgery for Russell
Besides ranking second in the country, Baylor also leads the nation in both scoring and total offense, but that offense took a huge hit when quarterback Seth Russell suffered a fractured cervical vertebra in his neck in a 45-27 win over Iowa State in the Bears’ last game on October 24th. The great news surrounding Russell is that his neck surgery was successful and he is expected to make a full recovery, although he is obviously out for this season.
Kansas State had a lot of personnel turnover this year from the teams that made annual bowl visits the last few years, but the Wildcats still showed promise with a 3-0 start during non-conference play. Unfortunately reality crept in once Big 12 play started as the Cats have since been the losing college football picks in all four conference games to fall one game below .500, with the most recent defeat coming vs. Texas in Austin 23-9 on October 24th.
Freshman Takes Over
So with Russell now sidelined, it is time for the Jarrett Stidham era at Baylor. Stidham came to Waco as one of the most highly touted recruits in the nation, but let us not lose sight of the fact that he is a true freshman just one year removed from leading his high school team to the Texas state playoffs, and he is now entrusted with leading the currently undefeated Bears to the College Football Playoff. So is the youngster ready for that pressure?
Well, the good news is that Stidham has seen action in all seven games this season, as he has gotten a lot of mop-up duty thanks to Baylor averaging 61.1 points per game and winning by an average of +33.8 points. Moreover, he has sparkled during his opportunities completing 85.7 percent of his passes (24-of-28) for 331 yards and six touchdowns without an interception.
Still, this a much more pressure packed situation for Stidham as the starting quarterback for a team expected to contend for a national championship, which is in stark contrast to not having any pressure in his first seven appearances when he entered those contests with humongous leads. That does not mean that the kid is not up for this task, but are you will to give 17 points on the road with a national spotlight before he has proven that had can handle this task?
Trying to Avoid First 0-5 Start Since 1989
If you are wondering when was the last time that Kansas State began a season 0-5 in conference play, the answer is it was in Bill Snyder’s first season as head coach of the Wildcats…in 1989 when the Cats finished 0-7 in what was then the Big Eight! It has not helped that Kansas State is starting a quarterback this season in Joe Hubener that had never started at the position at any level prior to this year, and it has shown over the last two games.
However, the Wildcats were actually very competitive in their first two conference games vs. two teams that currently remain undefeated, first getting nipped 36-34 on the road by 12th ranked Oklahoma State on a field goal with 30 seconds remaining and then losing here at home 52-45 to fifth ranked TCU on a Horned Frogs’ touchdown with one minute left.
They now have a chance to regain that good form as this is an extremely well coached team that probably took full advantage of its bye week, with Snyder trying to devise ways to take advantage of the freshman Baylor quarterback starting his first game.
Trending the Big Underdogs
Finally, the underdogs are 4-1 ATS in the last five head-to-head meetings with the home teams going 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings. Also, Kansas State is 21-8-1 ATS in its last 30 games vs. teams with winning records, 15-5-1 ATS in its last 21 games following a bye week and 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games following a straight up loss..
While Baylor should be able to win on the field here to preserve its number two ranking, we still expect Kansas State to put up a nice fight in a stadium named after its legendary head coach under the prime time lights, so take the big points at home in Manhattan, KS Thursday night.
College Football Pick: Kansas State +17 (-106)