With the non-conference portion of the schedule over with, the Baylor Bears enter conference play with a match against long-time rival Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have been a tough matchup for the Bears the past few years, especially as the Red Raiders have taken on a more "under-dog" role. The Red Raiders were just 4-8 last year under second year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The previous season, they were 8-5, but that was after a 7-0 start to their season. This is a team under significant pressure to improve, as Kingsbury looks to rebound from a 5-13 stretch since their magical 7-0 start to the 2013 season.
The biggest need for improvement will be on the defensive side of the ball, where Texas Tech is coming off of one of the worst defensive seasons in the country. They allowed the 2nd most points per game in the nation with 41.3 points, with the 5th worst rush defense in the nation. They were better against the pass, but that was still only good for 98th in the nation in yards allowed per game. The defense rarely stopped anyone and they only forced 15 turnovers in all of 2014 (110th in the nation).
Most of that blame falls on a very young defense, especially in the secondary. With another season under their belt, and some key recruits brought in to fortify the defensive line, the hope in Lubbock is that they can take some big steps forward this year, especially under new defensive coordinator David Gibbs. The Houston Cougar coordinator has had some solid success in the past, and looks to bring his a much more aggressive and attacking defense to the Red Raiders.
Some of the key names to watch on defense to Tech are sophomore defensive backs Nigel Bethel, who showed flashes of good play in a difficult freshman campaign, and junior Justin Nelson. Pass rushing specialist Pete Robertson also returns after leading the Big 12 in sacks in 2014 with 12. The Red Raiders should be more experienced in the secondary, but youth will have to take over at linebacker with the loss of all three primary starters.
Offensively, the Red Raiders should put up points, as they have done in their Air Raid offense. Coach Kliff Kingsbury, after having played under legendary coach Mike Leach, knows the offense well, and has updated a few things to modernize the scheme. The Red Raiders still have yet to decide who their starting quarterback will be, as Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb both return with substantial starting experience. Baylor fans might remember Mahomes from his record setting fourth quarter against Baylor in their near upset last year.
Whoever the quarterback will be though, they will have an excellent running back to help handle the load. Deandre Washington is one of the most talented runner in the Big 12, and with top reserves like Justin Stockton and 4-star true freshman Corey Dauphine behind him, the Red Raiders have a deep and strong running back group.
The main targets in the passing game will be 2014 leading receiver Jakeem Grant, a 5-foot-7 slot player with tremendous quickness. Joining him will be Devin Lauderdale and Reginald Davis, two players who got quite a few receptions in 2014. The biggest question will be about improving an offensive line that struggled at times in 2014. All-Big 12 tackle La'raven Clark returns for his senior year, and the Red Raiders hope that he can be the anchor for the offensive line.