Baylor takes on Texas Tech in Big 12 Opener

Baylor opens Big 12 conference play with Texas Tech. The two long-time rivals meet in Arlington, TX once again in a match up of two top offenses.

The Baylor Bears will begin the second part of their 2015 season as they enter into conference play. First up is the Texas Tech Red Raiders, an improving team with a young and explosive quarterback.  Led by 3rd year head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, the Red Raiders are looking to rebound after a disapointing 2014 season.  WIth an early win on the road against Arkansas and an almost upset last weekend against TCU, the Red Raiders appear to be one of the most improved teams from 2014.  

FEI Rank 3 49
F/+ Rank 14 48
S&P+ Rank 18 44
GE Rank 1 24
Sagarin 3 36
Massey 10 39
RealTime RPI 4 50
Team Rankings 3 30
TOTAL 7.00

40.00

Tech and Baylor have in some battles the past few years, even with the Bears winning the last four contests. Those four wins were preceeded by 15 straight Texas Tech wins in the series.  The series is tied at 36-36-1, so either team will be gaining a historical edge with a victory.  Since 2008, under Head Coach Art Briles, Baylor is 4-3 against Texas Tech.  Only one game has been played on the campus of either school, the 2008 game that saw Texas Tech win 35-28 in Lubbock.  For the past 6 seaons, the game has been played in the DFW area, with all but one of those games at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.  

The average score between the two teams has been 57-42 in the last four years.  Last years game saw Baylor come out to a dominant 42-17 lead in the 3rd quarter, but a furious Texas Tech rally fell a 2-point conversion short in a 48-46 Baylor victory. In 2013, it was a quick start that got the Red Raiders ahead 14-0 and 20-7. However, the Bears would dominate the last three quarters of play 42-14 and go on to a big win.  

With two top-tier offenses once again (Both Top-3 in Scoring offense, and Top-5 in Total Offense), it should be another shootout in Arlington.  Both teams feature athletic quarterbacks with big arms, and some question marks on defense.  

Players to Watch

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Mahomes, Sophomore Quarterback

Mahomes is one of the rising stars of the Big 12.  Only a sophomore, Mahomes has thrown for 391 yards per game in his 7-career starts.  He threw for 598 yards against the Bears last year, The big question about Mahomes will be his availbility and effectiveness against the Bears after injuring his knee early in the TCU game. For a player that uses his athleticsm very well not only in the running game, but to keep plays alive, this will be a huge question mark as game time nears . A limited Mahomes will lose one of his key traits that the Bears have struggled with the past few years.  

DeAndre Washington, Senior Runningback

One of the best pure runners in the Big 12, Washington is good enough to even make Texas Tech a good running team.  Under previous Air-Raid masterminds, the running game was a trick play. Routinely ranking in the bottom 25 of rushing attacks, the Red Raiders have become more balanced the past two seasons.  They run it more often (seen their rushing yards per game rise the past three season from 116.17, to 153 to 197.25) and more effectively as well (3.64 yards per rush to 5.17 to 6.21 this year).  Washington is averaging over 8 yards per carry himself and is a big weapon in the passing game as well.  He makes big plays all over the field for the Raiders.  

Jakeem Grant, Senior Wide Receiver

A tremendous weapon out of the slot, Grant has been a major issue for the Bears secondary the past two years.  In the 2013 game, he caught 6 catches for 72 yards and a 41 yard-touchdown.  Last year he was even better, routinely beating single safety coverage on his way to 5 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown.  Grant i

Micah Awe, Senior Linebacker

The Red Raiders leading tackler, Awe is a solid middle linebacker. He will make a lot of tackles, but usually after a few yards gained by the runner. He is active and usually in the middle of things, good or bad, for Tech. He has just 1.5 tackles for loss on the year, despite leading the team with 34 tackles. 

Pete Robinson, Senior Defensive End

The best defensive lineman on a rebuilt line, Robinson is also their best pass rusher.  He leads the team with 1 sack, but has done a solid job of generating pressure on the QB. He had a big game against TCU with 7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and a blocked field goal. 

Keys to the Game

1.  Cover the Slot Reciever - Slot receivers have been a difficult challenge for the Bears the past few season, especially the good ones like Jakeem Grant.  Terrel Burt was victimized many times last year in the game, and still struggled to start this season as well.  That caused Chance Waz to get his first start against Rice, and he played well. With the Bears defensive scheme, it puts a lot of pressure on the cover safety to cover a slot receiver by himself.  With usually inside position (to help out in the run game) the safeties have to cover all the way to the sideline.  Against the quicker and faster receivers, that is a difficult challenge. 

Look for the Bears to try some different looks on Grant, especially with Waz so untested.  Tech has had success going after that weakness for the Bears defense, and they probably will try to exploit it again.  Fellow inside reciever Ian Sadler is questionable for the game, so that could be a big break for the Bears if he is unable to go.  

2.  Pressure on the QB - Disruption is the name of the game for the Baylor Bears on defense. They want to force negative plays and cause quick drives and turnovers to give the ball back to the Baylor offense.  Baylor is averaging 3 sacks per game, good for 16th in the nation. Texas Tech on the other hand, has just 3 sacks on the year, and are averaging the 6th fewest sacks per game in the nation.  

Sacks per game Sacks Allowed per game
Baylor 3.00 1.33
Texas Tech 0.75 0.25

Even with the number of passes that Texas Tech throws, they have only allowed 1 sack this season.  The Baylor offensive line has allowed 4 in their three games this year. These are two very strong offensive lines that do a goob job of giving their offenses time to make plays. 

The Tech offense specializes in quick throws, which minimize sacks as well.  Throw in the athleticism of Pat Mahomes, and that is a recipe to lessen sacks.  However, with a limited Mahomes, part of that equation will be changed.  The Bears will have to attack the Red Raiders offensive line, and make those negative plays.  Getting 2-3 sacks in this game, to go along with good pressure on the quarterback, will be a huge key. 

The Bears offense tends to take more sacks than Tech, mainly due to their offensive styles.  Texas Tech throws more short passes, while the Bears tend to stretch the field vertically.  Those deep shots come with an increased chance for sacks.  With a defense that has struggled to generate a pass rush, this should be a big key for the Bears, as they look to take shots down the field.  

3. Turnovers man, Turnovers - In the Bears first true test of the year, turnovers will be a key item to watch.  The Red Raiders defense has done an exceptional job of recovering fumbles this year. They have caused 7 fumbles (23rd most in the nation), but recovered 5 (tied for 3rd).  Add in 3 interceptions and they have gained the 28th most turnovers of this young season. They are +1.25 turnovers per game right now, while the Bears are just even.  They have forced 6 turnovers (3 recovered fumbles and 3 interceptions) but have also given it away 6 times (4 interceptions and 2 fumbles).  

Seth Russell has accounted for 5 of those turnovers, with four interceptions and 1 fumble.  Four of those turnovers came in the Bears blowout win over Lamar.  With no turnovers against Rice, there is hope that the Lamar game was a blip on the radar, and not something to worry about. However, Russell has been turnover prone in the past.  In a reserve role in 2014 with limited touches, he still threw 1 interecption and fumbled the ball 3 times. He also fumbled the ball three times in 2013.  That is a trend, and against a team that is good at forcing fumbles, something to watch out for.  

Predictions

Massey Ratings – Bears win 51-41

RealTime RPI – Bears win 43-34

TeamRankings.com - Bears win 53-36

Vegas Line - Baylor -17 

Staff Predictions COMING SOON!


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