Big D's Keys to Success

It's time for the annual Battle of the Brazos and at least one end of the Brazos River valley is fired up for this weekend's game at Kyle Field. If the Aggies don't match that intensity, it could be a dangerous weekend for A&M fans. Here's Dallas Shipp's five keys to a successful weekend.

Series Record:
Texas A&M leads 64-30-9
Series Notes:
• The Aggies have more wins against Baylor than any other opponent
• The Aggies are 10-1 against the Bears since joining the Big 12
• The last three meetings have been decided by a total of 14 points
BigD03's pick:
Baylor +17 – The Aggies should win the game, but it's going to be tough to keep the Baylor passing attack out of the endzone to win by three scores.

It's a big week for the Aggies. They're coming off an embarrassing loss on national TV at Miami and they—especially head coach Dennis Franchione—need to come out like a different team at home this weekend. If not, it could get ugly in Aggieland between now and the end of the season. It's been 22 years (1984) since Baylor was able leave Kyle Field with a victory, and that's a streak that the Aggies can't afford to have broken this week. Here's how they make sure that doesn't happen.

1.) Pound the ball
Jorvorskie Lane only carried the ball twice in last week's debacle at Miami. That's probably going to change this week. Lane should get a lot of carries and punish the defensive line and middle linebackers from Baylor, taking out all of his frustrations from last Thursday night. Mike Goodson didn't exactly take advantage of the national spotlight either, so expect him to come out trying to make a statement as well. The Aggies will return to their rushing ways, running for more than 200 yards against Baylor.

2.) Stop the Bear's aerial assault
The Bears enter Saturday's game with the No. 17 ranked passing offense in the country—lucky for the Aggies, there are another five Big 12 schools ranked even higher. This is A&M's chance to defend the pass against a team who has shown that they're capable of throwing the ball, but it's not like they're facing Oklahoma or Texas Tech just yet. However, Baylor offensive coordinator Lee Hays did learn a lot of the system from Mike Leach, so expect to see many of the same wrinkles. The Aggies need to control the clock and keep this offense off the field. It will make it harder to cover the spread, but the Aggies can't afford to allow quarterback Blake Szymanski (no relation to Matt) to make big plays.

3.) Mix in the pass
Baylor has been pretty stingy against the run, allowing just 115 yards per game—but they did allow 180 yards against TCU. However, this may the perfect opportunity to give Stephen McGee another chance to gain some confidence in his ability to throw the ball down field. Many of us saw him do it in high school. He knows he can do it. This game could just be a bit of a reminder before the Aggies face teams from the middle and upper portion of the Big 12. Baylor

4.) Avoid the big plays
I said last week that the only way Miami would win the game was with big plays and Aggie turnovers. Turns out they didn't need all of them, but those deep passes and Aggie turnovers sure got things started for the Hurricanes in the first half. This week is the same thing. Baylor does not have the talent that A&M has, but the Bears are looking for their first four-game winning streak since 1991 and they will be motivated. Guy Morriss will pull out all the stops as well, so the Aggies must be prepared for trick plays. Just keep the play in front of you and don't make silly mistakes on offense and this game should be well in hand by the end of the third quarter.

5.) Score—A lot.
I know, I know. I've already said the Aggies need to control the clock and keep the Baylor offense off the field, but when the Aggies get the ball, they need to score each and every time. Even though A&M kicker Justin Brantly was named to the Ray Guy Award Watch List this week, this is not the week that fans would like to see him boost his statistics. The Aggies need a convincing win over the Bears—if for no other reason, to allow Aggie fans to exhale.

Five Bears to Watch
1. Jordan Lake, Safety – Lake forced two fumbles and caught two interceptions in last week's victory at Buffalo, earning Big 12 Player of the Week honors. He is a force in the Baylor secondary.
2. Blake Szymanski, Quarterback – Szymanski is off to a good start this year after a rough outing against TCU. He's led the Bears to three straight wins and the No. 17 ranked passing offense in the country. Even against non-BCS conference teams, that ain't bad.
3. Jay Finley, Running Back – The redshirt freshman may have squeezed senior Brandon Whitaker out of a starting spot. The young back runs the ball north and south and has been a spark plug for the Bears.
4. Justin Akers/Brad Taylor, Slot Wide Receivers – This is a combination pick because the slot receivers account for more than 45 percent of Baylor's receptions this year. Akers leads the team in receptions (19), yards (230) and touchdown receptions (3). Taylor has 13 receptions, 210 yards and two touchdown receptions.
5. Jake La Mar, Defensive Line – La Mar leads the Bears in sacks and will be another guy to focus on for the A&M offensive line. He's not Miami's Campbell, but he's No. 5 in the Big 12 in sacks, so the Aggies will need to keep him out of the back field.

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