Texas A&M vs. Baylor: Matchups

Despite losing to Baylor only once in the last two decades, Texas A&M finds itself the heavy underdog as it pulls into Waco for a matchup with the Bears. Are the matchups in place to pull off the upset? Aggie Websider's Taylor Freeman takes a look at how the two teams stack up.

It's Friday, which means it's time to get the game face on and prepare for the Baylor team. Forget the fans, forget the location, forget the travel, and what is left is a 3-7 Baylor squad who actually may be better than their record. As it stands now, they are 1-5 in the conference and in a current 4 game skid, which has included 3 top 15 opponents. However, two weeks ago they were almost able to pull off a stunner when Missouri came to town, losing 28-31. They are led, as everyone knows, by freshman QB Robert Griffin, a track star who is as dangerous with his feet as he is through the air. Griffin has moved into second all-time on the Baylor single season rushing touchdowns list, and will have a good chance to add to those totals on Saturday. Here are the individual matchups between the Aggie and Bear units.

Texas A&M Passing Offense vs. Baylor Pass Defense

Last week was an off week for the Aggie passing attack, as Jerrod Johnson through his first two picks since facing Oklahoma State, although they still gained 258 yards through the air. Most importantly, they did this without standout freshman Jeff Fuller and Terrance McCoy, who should both be back in time for the game in Waco. Jerrod is still the 27th rated passer in the nation, and with all his weapons back he should have more success this weekend.

Baylor defensively has struggled against the pass, ranked 11th in the Big 12 in completion percentage allowed and 10th in average yards per attempt. However, they have 11 interceptions on the year, led by linebacker Joe Pawelek who has 4. Baylor must improve on its pass rush, as they only sack opposing quarterbacks 1.7 times per game, but if they can get to Jerrod, Pawelek, Jordan Lake, and crew may be able to steal a pass over the middle to one of the Aggies' safety valves.

Advantage: Texas A&M

Texas A&M Rushing Offense vs. Baylor Run Defense

The Aggies have not been able to get anything out of their ground game all year, and may have hit bottom last Saturday against Oklahoma, rushing for just 26 yards on the ground. A&M is ranked 108th in the NCAA in rushing yards, with 103 per game, due mainly to an inexperienced offensive line and a commitment to the ineffective Keondra Smith. The Aggies may have Michael Goodson ready for Saturday, but the key to a good ground game is the big men up front, and they will not succeed unless the light bulb goes off late in the season.

On the other hand, the Baylor defensive front has been surprisingly solid this year, contrary to what their ranking may indicate. While they have allowed over 150 rushing yards per game, they are only allowing 3.7 yards per attempt, and simply have the most attempts out of any team in the Big 12. Linebacker Joe Pawelek is putting together another strong case for 1st team all-Big 12, as he leads the conference with 11.4 tackles per game, and has 2 fumble recoveries to go with his interceptions. He will need to be stopped for the Aggies to get their rushing attack working.

Advantage: Baylor

Baylor Passing Offense vs. Texas A&M Pass Defense

Robert Griffin certainly hasn't played like a freshman, as he is already the #33 rated passer in the NCAA, just six spots behind Jerrod. With that said, the Bears are a run-first team, and are ranked last in the Big 12 with 183 yards per game in the air. When Baylor does decide to throw it, the favorite target is another highly touted recruit Kendall Wright, who leads the team with 564 yards on the year and 4 touchdowns. While Griffin may not do much damage through the air, he also protects the ball well, and has thrown a league low 4 interceptions all season long.

Defensively, Texas A&M is in a slump in the secondary, having allowed 343 yards per game over the past 4 games. Additionally, perhaps the best performer was safety Trent Hunter, who is doubtful to make the trip to Waco. Still, the Aggies have not matched up well against the big, physical guys of Tech and Oklahoma, and have shown they can cover role receivers such as Banks from Kansas State, so they should bounce back this week and contain big plays through the air.

Advantage: Texas A&M

Baylor Rushing Offense vs. Texas A&M Run Defense

The Aggie fans that make the trek to Waco may have flashbacks to 2005 watching Griffin run his zone read, and it may prove just as effective. Baylor is third in the Big 12 with 185 yards per game rushing, or just one spot behind Oklahoma, who ran all over the Aggies last week for 328 yards. Besides Griffin, they are led by Sophomore Jay Finley, who is averaging a stout 5.8 yards per carry, and could easily match that average on Saturday.

Texas A&M, however, has struggled to stop the run all year, allowing over 200 yards per game on the ground to opponents. Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines has rotated players right and left looking for the correct formula to stop a rushing attack, but so far has been unsuccessful. The Aggies may try to spy Griffin, but with delayed plays such as the zone read, all it takes is one nudge from a lineman and you will not make up the ground to Robert's world class speed. This could be another long day for the Aggie front seven.

Advantage: Baylor

Texas A&M Special Teams vs. Baylor Special Teams

Texas A&M has improved special teams play over the past couple of weeks, while Baylor has gone in an opposite direction. For the Bears, they have had specific problems in the kicking game, with kickoffs averaging being taken at the 10 yard line, and they are only 4 for 6 of field goals on the year. The lack of field goal attempts is likely due to questions about the kickers range and accuracy, and he has missed 4 PAT's on the year as well.

Texas A&M seems to have found their solution at kicker with newcomer Randy Bullock, which has improved their special teams substantially. Also, Cyrus Gray has finally started to figure out kickoff returns in the Big 12, which resulted in a return for a touchdown last week against Oklahoma. The one area of concern remains at punt coverage, as Brantley's 44.8 yard punt average is partially wiped out by the Big 12 worst 9.1 yards allowed per return.

Advantage: Texas A&M




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