Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE
In a game they absolutely have to have to reach bowl eligibility, Baylor is less than a FG underdog to a Cyclone team trying to claw their way to respectability.
In their first two road games in Big 12 play this season, Baylor came up achingly short to both West Virginia and Texas, as their defense just could not get off the field.
Under Art Briles, the Bears have ridden an elite offense and a defense that tries to do enough to get by to get out of the Big 12 cellar. On Saturday, they travel to Ames to play an Iowa State program that is their mirror image, built around an elite defense and an offense that tries to do just enough to get by.
The Cyclones, with a 4-3 record overall and a 1-3 mark in Big 12 play, have a narrow road to reach a bowl game, but it depends on a victory over the Bears on Saturday.
The game will be an interesting contrast in styles: Baylor's offense, averaging 48 points a game, is ranked third in the nation while their defense, giving up 44 points a game, checks in at No. 124. Iowa State's defense, giving up 19.6 points a game, is ranked 27th in the nation, while their offense, scoring only 23.6 points a contest, checks in at No. 90.
And while they're 0-2 at home in conference play in 2012, Paul Rhoads has made Ames an extremely tough place to play: the Cyclones shocked the college football world with an upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State last season, and they gave No. 4 Kansas State their toughest test of the season in a narrow 27-21 loss earlier in 2012.
But if there's any room for optimism in Waco, it's this: the odds makers set the over/under at 71, which would mean a pace far more favorable to the high-powered Bears offense.