Who: Texas Tech (3-1, 0-1) versus Baylor (3-0, 0-0)
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
When: Saturday, October 3, 2:30 (CT)
Media: ABC/ESPN2 (TV), Texas Tech Sports Network (Radio)
Coaches: Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech, 15-14; Art Briles, Baylor, 92-62
Series History: 36-36-1
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
The Red Raider offense will certainly have an easier task than the Tech defense. That said, injuries could throw a real spanner in the works for the boys in scarlet and black. Specifically, the status of quarterback Pat Mahomes and inside receiver Ian Sadler is unknown following injuries suffered in a loss to TCU, and their availability for the Baylor game is in doubt.
While the loss of Sadler would be harmful, Mahomes’ absence could prove fatal in a game where Tech’s only real hope for victory is to “outscore” the Bears. Mahomes gives Tech’s offense dynamism, and presents a very real running threat to opposing defenses.
If he can’t go, Tech is fortunate in having Davis Webb, a former starter and talented player in his own right, to fall back upon. Webb does not have Mahomes’ running ability, and his decision-making is sometimes questionable, but when he’s on his game there are few better pure passers in college football. If Mahomes is not available, then Tech will absolutely require Webb to be in his finest form.
In Mahomes’ absence, the Red Raiders have another good option in a running game that has been extremely effective. DeAndre Washington averages 119 rushing yards per game and 8.2 yards per carry. Backing him up is the speedy Justin Stockton who averages five yards a pop. It is not out of the question that Tech could lean heavily on Washington and Stockton, even if Mahomes is available. Without Mahomes, this possibility turns almost into a likelihood.
Unlike its offense, Baylor’s defense is a mediocre group in most areas. Mediocre but aggressive.
“Coach [Phil} Bennett, his style of play is he wants to suffocate you, walks the corners down, walks the safeties down, so any of that intermediate crossing routes and the run game the safeties get involved, the corners are trying to get in your face,” said Kliff Kingsbury after practice Tuesday. “So I think they lead the country in negative plays caused per game. Really disruptive up front.”
Speaking of “up front” tackle Andrew Billings (pictured above) and end Shawn Oakman are future high draft picks in the NFL. And their talent has resulted in Baylor sacking the quarterback three times per game, good for the No. 29 spot nationally.
Other strengths are passing yardage surrendered (162 yards per game), which is 21st nationally, and total defense, where the Bears are currently ranked No. 33. A weakness is third down conversion defense; Baylor checks in at No. 72 nationally in that category.
When Baylor Has the Ball
Truthfully, the Red Raider defense will have to play the best game seen at Texas Tech in many a blood-red super-moon to slow down the Baylor offense, which has been, hands down, the most prolific in the nation thus far.
The numbers do not lie. Baylor is No. 1 in the nation in the following categories: scoring offense, rushing offense, yards per rushing attempt, passing efficiency, and total offense.
The individuals chiefly responsible for the Bears’ obscene offensive numbers are running back Shock Linwood who rushes for 121 yards per game and 8.6 yards per carry; quarterback Seth Russell who throws for 332 yards per outing and leads the nation in passing efficiency, and receiver Corey Coleman who leads the nation’s receivers in touchdown catches with eight, is No. 2 in receiving yards per game, and No. 4 in yards per reception.
Because the Bears are equally dangerous with the pass and the run, Texas Tech will probably not try to get too exotic with their defensive scheme. This means Tech will usually sport a four-man line, and in crucial run defense situations, bring nickel back J.J. Gaines off of the edge as a run blitzer.
Tech’s disposition in the secondary will bear—so to speak—watching. Because of Baylor’s speed and talent at receiver, the temptation will be to show a soft zone, which is what the Red Raiders usually did against TCU. However, that tactic proved almost worthless as Horned Frog receiver Josh Doctson caught 16 passes for 287 yards. Corey Coleman is a similar talent. So look for the Red Raiders to work in some press coverage in an attempt to at least throw the Baylor offense off its stride.
As daunting as Baylor appears, there are three factors that render the Bears a bit less formidable than the above précis suggests.
First, Baylor hasn’t exactly gone through a murderer’s row early in the season; the Bears have beaten SMU, Lamar and Rice. Tech is a major step up from all three of those teams.
Second, the Bears are dead last nationally in penalties, averaging 114 penalty yards per game.
And third, Baylor is a pedestrian No. 63 nationally in turnover margin. If Tech plays a clean game and wins the turnover battle by at least two, they should be in the fight all the way to the end.
The Pick: Baylor 56 Texas Tech 37