Shape of the Game: Baylor

Texas Tech faces the daunting challenge of beating No. 4 Baylor on Saturday at AT&T Stadium. The Red Raiders defense has struggled during a three-game losing streak and is now charged with slowing the Bears' top-ranked offense. Baylor's defense has been equally impressive this season, but Texas Tech may have a puncher's chance to pull the upset with its prolific passing attack.

Key Baylor Stats
Scoring Offense Per Game611
Rushing Yards Per Game2599
Yards Per Carry6,018
Passing Yards Per Game391
Total Yards Per Game6851
Penalties Per Game74120
Turnover Margin+.8817
Sacks Per Game312
Points Allowed Per Game15.47
Yards Allowed Per Game3069

To say that Texas Tech, or any team for the matter of it, has it's work cut out in trying to beat Baylor is a gross understatement. The gaudy numbers the Bears put up early in the season were not a function of inferior competition, they were the reflection of a truly great football team. The Oklahoma Sooners found this out the hard way, and future Baylor opponents will too.

But there's no real secret to beating Baylor—you simply have to play an incredibly clean game and hope the Bears do not.

Aside from that hope, there are a few things Tech might do to try to pull what would probably be the greatest upset in school history. To begin with, and given Tech's weakness in run defense, the Red Raiders (7-3, 4-3 in the Big 12) simply must try to outnumber the Bears in the run game and hope that the secondary can hold up. Baylor (8-0, 5-3) has probably the best offensive line in America (they made Lache Seastrunk a Heisman candidate and could do the same with Shock Linwood), so Tech stands no chance in a man-to-man confrontation. The Red Raiders must swarm the box to slow down the run.

Furthermore, the passing game is more volatile than the running game because it is more difficult to execute. Thus, if Baylor QB Bryce Petty is off of his game, then throwing the kitchen sink at the ground game may be enough to keep the Bears' point total within reach.

Unfortunately, Baylor's defense is almost as ungodly as its offense. There are future NFL players in all three levels. Still, because the Red Raider offense is reasonably proficient, Tech has a slugger's chance. And by slugging, I mean the explosive play.

Baylor's defense is the nation's best at preventing touchdowns in the red zone, and scoring TDs in the red zone has been a glaring weakness for Tech's offense. Field goals, needless to say, are practically worthless against the Bears. Thus, the Red Raiders will have to take multiple shots deep downfield. Bubble screens and dump-offs to Jace Amaro will not get it.

The problem with the deep passing game is that, when it fails, it puts the offense off schedule, hastens three-and-outs, and puts your tired defense back on the field to face the relentless Bear offense again. But if fortune truly favors the bold, and if Kliff Kingsbury is more interested in a redemptive win than trying to keep the score respectable, this is the approach to take. If the defense can suffocate the run, if Tech makes plays in special teams where Baylor is mediocre, and if the Red Raiders cook up multiple explosive plays, then maybe this one will be interesting into the fourth quarter.

The Final Call: Baylor 62 Texas Tech 21

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